[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Niskayuna 4-14-1992 as L.L. No. 1-1992. Amendments noted where applicable.]
There is a direct relationship between the planting of trees, shrubs and associated vegetation in sufficient number in populated areas and the health, safety and welfare of communities and the physical and visual qualities of the environment which towns are authorized to protect. Trees and such vegetation abate noise, provide welcome shade to people, preserve the balance of oxygen in the air by removing carbon dioxide and fostering air quality and add color and verdure to human construction. They also stabilize the soil and control water pollution by preventing soil erosion and flooding, yield advantageous microclimatic effects and provide a natural habitat for wildlife. The destructive and indiscriminate removal of trees and related vegetation causes increased Town costs for proper drainage control, impairs the benefits of occupancy of existing residential properties and impairs the stability and value of both improved and unimproved real property in the area of destruction and adversely affects public health, safety and general welfare. The Town, in seeking to promote the health, safety and general welfare of its citizens and in seeking to preserve the quality and character of its environment, finds that trees, shrubs and associated vegetation are an important natural resource. The Town recognizes the practical and aesthetic value of trees and wishes to assure that future generations of Town residents will continue to enjoy the benefits of living in a community filled with trees.
When not inconsistent with the context, words used in the present tense include the future, words in the plural include the singular and words in the singular include the plural. The word "shall" is mandatory and not merely directory.
For the purpose of this chapter, the following terms, phrases, words and their derivations shall have the meanings given herein:
- ARBORICULTURAL SPECIFICATIONS AND STANDARDS OF PRACTICE
- Detailed specifications and standards of practice regarding such arboricultural activities as planting site and tree selection, site preparation and tree planting, maintenance, removal, replanting and replacement.
- Any person, firm, corporation, partnership or association who shall file an application for development with the Town; any person, firm, corporation, partnership or association who shall physically alter a site which has been approved for development; and any owner of land approved for development.
- ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- Unless otherwise provided for by statute or local law, the Commissioner of Public Works or his duly authorized representative.
- The entire width of every public way or right-of-way when any part thereof is open to the use of the public, as a matter of right, for purposes of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
- MASTER TREE LIST
- A listing of suitable and desirable types and species of trees able to thrive in Town highways and public places of the Town.
- Any person, firm, partnership, association, corporation, company or organization of any kind, including public utility and municipal department.
- PUBLIC PLACE
- Includes all grounds owned by the Town of Niskayuna or under its control or supervision, whether owned, leased or under contract of the Town.
- PUBLIC TREE
- Any tree now or hereafter growing within the bounds of any Town highway or public place.
- The Town of Niskayuna, lying within the County of Schenectady, State of New York.
- TOWN FORESTRY PLAN
- An annual written review and description of Town forestry goals, objectives and such related activities as updating the Arboricultural Specifications and Standards of Practice and the Master Tree List, conducting street tree surveys, planting trees and sponsoring educational programs for the public.
- TREE LAWN
- That part of a street or highway not covered by the sidewalk or other paving lying between the property line and that portion of the street or highway usually used for vehicular traffic.
The Town Superintendent of Highways shall have control of all trees in Town highways and public places of the Town and shall prosecute complaints for injury to or unlawful acts concerning public trees. The Town Tree Council shall develop and administer a comprehensive program promoting the purpose of this chapter, hereinafter referred to as the "Town Forestry Program."
There shall be created a Town Tree Council consisting of seven members appointed by the Town Board. All members shall be citizens and residents of the Town. The Town Board shall endeavor to appoint at least one member who is professionally trained in a field such as forestry, botany, horticulture or landscape architecture. The term of each member shall be three years, except for the first board, where two terms shall be for three years; three terms shall be for two years; and two terms shall be for one year. A vacancy occurring during the term of any member shall be filled for the unexpired portion of the term.
It shall be the responsibility of the Town Tree Council to develop a comprehensive Town forestry program. To this end, the Council shall develop and administer an annual written Town Forestry Plan and shall provide advice and consultation regarding trees to any Town board, department or citizen.
The Town Board shall designate a member of the Tree Council to act as Chairman thereof or, on failure to do so, the Tree Council shall elect a Chairman from its own members. The Tree Council may adopt operational rules and regulations and hold regular meetings that shall be open to the public. A majority of members present shall constitute a quorum for conducting business.
The Town Tree Council shall develop and present an annual written Town Forestry Plan to the Town Board. Upon its acceptance and approval by the Town Board, the plan shall constitute the official Town Forestry Plan for the Town of Niskayuna and shall be administered by the Town Council. The Town Forestry Plan shall define the annual goals and objectives of the Town Forestry Program and shall include a current statement of Arboricultural Specifications and Standards of Practice and a current Master Tree List. Nothing contained in the Town Forestry Program or the Arboricultural Specifications and Standards of Practice shall abridge the authority of the Superintendent of Highways as provided for in the New York State Highway Law.
Owners of property adjoining Town highways may locate and plant trees in the tree lawn at their own expense, with the approval of the Town Superintendent of Highways and a majority of the members of the Town Board. Approval shall be granted if the planting proposed is in accordance with the Arboricultural Specifications and Standards of Practice included in the Town Forestry Plan and if trees to be planted are selected from the Master Tree List included in the Town Forestry Plan. The Town Superintendent of Highways shall authorize approved planting by an order, in writing, and shall certify a map or diagram showing the location of tree planting. He shall file both with the Town Clerk within 10 days of issuing the order.
All work on trees in Town tree lawns and public places of the Town shall be performed in accordance with the Arboricultural Specifications and Standards of Practice included in the Town Forestry Plan.
The Town Superintendent of Highways shall see that all public trees are properly cared for and maintained. To this end no person other than the Town Superintendent of Highways or his duly authorized deputy or agent shall fertilize, spray, cable or brace, trim, prune, cut above ground or below ground or otherwise disturb any public tree without first obtaining a permit from the Town Superintendent of Highways. He shall issue a permit if he determines that the work proposed is necessary and that the methods and workmanship proposed are satisfactory. The Town Superintendent of Highways shall supervise and inspect all work on public trees done under permit.
No person shall remove, clear or cut all or substantially all of the trees, shrubs or brush on any area of land in the Town measuring 10,000 or more square feet except pursuant to and in conjunction with an approved subdivision plan, an approved site plan, an approved special use permit or a valid building permit. Variances and waivers from the requirements of this section shall be treated as an application for land development under § 201-11 of this chapter.
The Town Superintendent of Highways shall treat or remove public trees that are dead or diseased and constitute a hazard to life and property or a threat to other trees in the Town. No person other than the Town Superintendent of Highways or his duly authorized deputy or agent shall prune, cut down, remove or destroy any tree standing or lying on land within the bounds of any Town highway or public place of the Town. He shall see that all removal work on public trees is performed in accordance with the Arboricultural Specifications and Standards of Practice included in the Town Forestry Plan.
The Town shall replant or replace any public tree that it removes, wherever practicable.
The Town Superintendent of Highways shall see that trees removed from Town tree lawns and public places of the Town are replanted or replaced in accordance with the Arboricultural Specifications and Standards of Practice included in the Town Forestry Plan and that all replacement trees are selected from the Master Tree List included in the Town Forestry Plan. If conditions prevent planting at the removal site, a tree removed from the tree lawn may be replanted or replaced in an attractive manner at an alternative site in the same or neighboring Town tree lawn; and a tree removed from a public place may be replanted or replaced in an attractive manner at an alternative site in the same public place of the Town.
No person shall cut, carve, injure, harm or damage any tree in Town tree lawns and public places of the Town; attach any rope, wire, nails, advertising posters or other contrivance to any tree; allow any gaseous liquid, chemical or solid substance which is harmful to trees come into contact with any tree; or set fire or permit any fire to burn such fire or the heat thereof will injure any portion of any tree.
No person shall undertake any excavation or fill, construction or street work near any public tree until said tree shall be safeguarded by such high visibility barriers or other protective measure as shall effectually prevent injury to any part of any tree and its root system to the satisfaction of the Town Superintendent of Highways. No person shall excavate any ditches, tunnels or trenches, otherwise change the grade of any terrain or lay any drive within a radius of 15 feet from any public tree without the written approval of the Town Superintendent of Highways.
No person shall deposit, place, store or maintain upon any Town tree lawn or public place of the Town any stone, brick, sand, fill dirt, concrete or other materials that may impede the free passage of water, air and fertilizer to the root system of any tree.
Regarding subdivision plans, site plans, special use permits, average density developments, planned unit developments and waivers granted pursuant to § 201-8, but excluding single-family dwellings, the following shall apply to land developers:
The Town Planning Board may require developers to provide whatever information it deems necessary to review proposed development applications and address tree preservation. Where the Planning Board finds that unnecessary hardships may result from strict compliance with this section, it may vary the requirement so that substantial justice may be done and the public interest secured, provided that such variation will not have the effect of nullifying the intent and purpose of this chapter. Variances and waivers from the requirements of this section shall be granted only on the affirmative vote of a majority of the full membership of the Board.
Developers seeking approval shall undertake no work acting land or its natural features before submitting to the Town Planning Board an aerial photograph no more than six years old with an overlay of the proposed development. Upon receipt of this information, the Planning Board shall refer the map and overlay to the Town Tree Council for its review and report. The Town Tree Council shall walk the wooded areas of the site; identify trees of value by size, species and condition; tag them; and report to the Planning Board within a timely fashion but in no more than 60 days of submission of the required materials by the developer. Based on the report and recommendation of the Tree Council, the Planning Board may require the developer to identify trees of value by locating them on a survey map at an average density of up to 10 trees per acre. This information shall be used by the Planning Board to determine which trees shall be preserved and so designated on approved development plans.
The Town Tree Council shall provide the Planning Board and the Town Enforcement Officer with an appraisal of the value of trees to be preserved. Said value shall be determined in accordance with the latest revision of A Guide to the Professional Evaluation of Landscape Trees, Specimen Shrubs, and Evergreens, published by the International Society of Arboriculture.
The developer shall mark trees to be preserved with flagging and safeguard them by such high visibility barriers or other protective measures as shall effectively prevent injury to the tree and its root system during construction, due to such causes as soil compaction, grade change, root severance, drainage change, soil chemistry change and trunk and limb impact change.
The developer shall provide, at his/her cost, that trees to be preserved are inspected for tree condition and tree protection adequacy at four stages, as applicable, in the course of development: prior to site disturbance, prior to subdivision plat plan final approval, prior to the issuance of a building permit and prior to certificate of occupancy issuance. The inspection shall be conducted by a member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists or by a qualified professional trained and experienced in tree preservation as approved by the Tree Council. The inspector shall provide directly to the Town Enforcement Officer a copy of the inspection report. The report shall contain such information as determined by the Tree Council as sufficient to evaluate the condition of trees designated for preservation and shall be certified as true and accurate by the inspector. No appropriation or authorization for action shall occur until the Town Enforcement Officer certifies that the inspection report is satisfactory or that the recovery of value terms outlined in Subsection F are met.
Prior to continued development or the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, the developer shall provide to the Town moneys equal to the value of any tree designated for preservation that is removed or injured or that died as a result of construction.
If the Enforcement Officer finds that there has been a violation of this section, he shall notify the developer and give him up to three days to correct the violation. In addition to any other penalties set forth herein, failure to correct the violation in the designated time period shall result in the revocation of any outstanding permits or approvals associated with the development.
To protect the public, any person who plants, maintains or removes trees as a business on any area of land in the Town shall be properly bonded and insured and shall comply with state and local liability insurance requirements, worker's compensation and safety codes. No person who plants, maintains or removes trees as a business shall work on any tree on any area of land in the Town without first applying for and obtaining an annually renewable registration certificate from the Town available through the office of the Town Clerk.
Any person violating or failing to comply with any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a violation and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined a sum not exceeding $500 or imprisoned for a term not exceeding 15 days or both. Each tree affected by noncompliance with this chapter shall constitute a separate violation.
In lieu of or in addition to any fine or imprisonment or both imposed for a conviction of a violation of this chapter, each such violation may be subject to a civil penalty not exceeding $500, to be recovered in an action or proceeding in a court of competent jurisdiction. Each day a violation continues shall be subject to a separate civil penalty. In addition to said civil penalty, recovery of the value of any tree damaged, destroyed or removed in violation of this chapter shall be had by the Town in an amount equal to the value of said tree or trees.