[HISTORY: Adopted by the Borough Council of the Borough of Alpine 12-20-2007. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Brush, weeds, and yard waste disposal — See Ch. 76.
Licensing of landscapers — See Ch. 140.
Property maintenance — See Ch. 169.
Editor's Note: This ordinance repealed former Ch. 205, Trees and Shrubs, adopted as Ch. XI (Ord. No. 121) of the 1970 Revised General Ordinances, as amended.
Findings and purpose. The Borough of Alpine finds that the preservation, protection and planting of trees stabilizes the soil by prevention of erosion and sedimentation; aids in the removal of pollutants from the air and assists in the generation of oxygen; acts to moderate extremes of temperature and to provide shade; aids in the control of drainage and restoration of denuded soil subsequent to construction and grading; provides buffer areas which screen against noise and pollution; provides a haven for birds and other wildlife and otherwise enhances the environment; protects and increases property values; preserves and increases seclusion and privacy; conserves and enhances the Borough's physical and aesthetic appearance; and generally protects the public health, safety and general welfare. Furthermore, the Borough of Alpine Master Plan Update, adopted July 2, 2002, recommends "encouraging a creative design approach to save existing trees" and "to mandate the replacement of trees that are improperly removed from a site". This Chapter is intended to implement the Master Plan recommendations as well as protect the quality of life and the character of the natural and built environment.
Definitions. For the purpose of this section, the following words shall have the meanings as indicated:
- A form of financial security to ensure the performance of obligations under this chapter. The Borough shall have the right to use all or any portion of the bond for purposes permitted under this chapter. The bond may be in the form of cash, letter of credit or surety bond issued by a bonding company licensed in the state of New Jersey. Any cash deposit shall be held in an appropriate escrow account and any letter of credit or surety bond shall be in form satisfactory to the Borough Attorney.
- BUFFER AREA
- The area from the side and rear property lines beginning at the front line of the lot and running to the rear line in the case of side lines and for the entire width of the rear line 10 feet in width in the R-1 Zone, 15 feet in width in the R-AA Zone and 20 feet in width in the R-A Zone.
- BUILDING PLOT
- A parcel of land upon which a building has been or may be erected in accordance with Chapter 220, Zoning.
- Thickness of a tree, determined by its diameter measured at a height of four and one half feet (forestry method) above natural grade.
- Any person or business which is in any way responsible for installation and/or removal of trees.
- An imaginary line on the ground encircling a tree and corresponding to the furthest extension of the outermost branches of the tree, or 10 feet from the trunk, whichever is greater.
- IMPROVED LOT
- Any clearly defined piece of land which contains a permanently affixed structure with a roof and intended for shelter, housing or enclosures.
- LANDMARK TREE
- Any tree designated and identified as such by the Environmental Commission pursuant to the standards, as defined herein.
- Any person having the title to any lot, plot, piece or parcel of land.
- A license issued by the Building Inspector to remove or destroy trees from any improved or unimproved land as defined in this section.
- Any individual, firm, association, partnership or corporation, or any group of two or more of the foregoing.
- PREEXISTING TREE CONDITIONS PLAN
- A plan or map drawn to scale showing the location of all regulated trees existing on the property and listing their species, caliper, and condition as dead, poor, or good, as well as the location of any structures on the property. The condition of each regulated tree must be documented on a plan drawn under the seal of a licensed land surveyor or professional engineer. In the case of a lot on which there is a presently occupied dwelling and the number of trees to be removed is two or less, in lieu of a formal sealed plan, the owner of the property may submit a hand-drawn, unsealed sketch or plan on which the trees to be removed are shown with sufficient detail and dimensions to allow the Environmental Commission or other Borough authority to identify them in the field.
- REGULATED TREE
- Any living tree having trunk caliper of six inches or greater measured at a height of four and one half feet (forestry method) above natural grade.
- Any person in possession of any lot, piece or parcel of land, with or without a lease, but with the permission of the owner.
- TREE EXPERT
- A person holding an appropriate license or certification from the State of New Jersey demonstrating an expertise in trees and/or tree care services.
- UNIMPROVED LOT
- Any clearly defined piece of land, the location, dimensions and boundaries of which are determined by the latest official record, upon which no structure permanently affixed to the land, with a roof and intended for shelter, housing or enclosure has been constructed.
Permit application procedures.
Permit required. No person, contractor, property owner or tenant shall remove or destroy or cause to be removed or destroyed by any person, contractor, property owner or tenant any regulated trees on any improved or unimproved tract of land or lot within the Borough unless a permit is first obtained for such removal. This permit will be valid for three years from the date of issue.
Exemptions. The following activities shall be exempt from the permit requirements of this chapter:
The cutting, pruning or trimming of limbs or trunks of a regulated tree in a manner which is not harmful to the health of the regulated tree.
The removal of regulated trees, or significant portions thereof, which are diseased or dead, or which endanger public safety, provided a certificate from a tree expert certifying the regulated tree is diseased or dead or a threat to public safety is submitted with the request for exemption. In those cases where regulated tree removal will be performed by the property owner, a photograph clearly showing the condition of the tree may be presented in lieu of a certificate from a tree expert as evidence of the regulated tree's condition.
The cutting, destruction or removal of trees for the purpose of installing a new or replacement septic system provided that a septic permit is issued for the property involved prior to any removal.
Application fee. The permit shall be obtained from the Building Inspector upon an application being made therefor and a nonrefundable fee as follows submitted with each application:
Application information where no building permit, septic permit, soil movement permit or demolition permit is requested. An application for a permit for removal or destruction of regulated trees where no building permit, septic permit, soil movement permit or demolition permit is requested or contemplated shall contain the name of applicant, name of owner of property with consent of the owner, if different from the applicant, location of regulated trees on a diagram of property, the reasons for the removal or destruction and a plan for proposed replacement.
Application information where building permit, soil movement permit or demolition permit is sought. An application for a permit for removal or destruction of regulated trees where a building permit for construction involving any exterior alteration to the building foundation or property, or soil movement permit or demolition permit is being sought, shall be filed with the site plan. The site plan shall show the location of all regulated trees existing on the property and list their species, caliper, and condition, as dead, poor, or good. The site plan shall identify all regulated trees for which approval for removal is being sought and a plan for proposed replacement. This site plan shall be drawn by an architect, licensed surveyor, or engineer under their official seal.
Determination of Board/Environmental Commission; issuance of permits.
Where a site plan or subdivision application or a soil movement permit is involved, the Planning Board, Environmental Commission, Building Inspector or Board of Adjustment shall determine which regulated trees may be removed and the permit for such removal shall be issued by the Building Inspector at the time of the issuance of a building permit, soil movement permit or demolition permit.
Where there is no site plan or subdivision application or soil movement permit, the Environmental Commission shall determine which regulated trees may be removed and the permit for such removal shall be issued by the Building Inspector after a final decision is reached. The Environmental Commission may choose to utilize a tree expert in its determination as necessary, to be funded by the applicant through an escrow deposit.
In the event of any unauthorized regulated tree removal, immediate notification shall be given to the Alpine Police Department, the Environmental Commission Chairperson or alternate, and the Building Inspector. The Building Inspector shall determine if the issuance of a stop-work order is warranted based on the provisions of Subsection D(11).
Referral to other agencies. Nothing herein contained shall prevent the Building Inspector, Planning Board or Environmental Commission from referring the application to the Health Officer or other committee for their examination and opinion.
Bond required. In all instances in which more than two trees are proposed to be removed, the following bonds shall be required:
Vacant lot or complete reconstruction. Each application for a building permit, soil movement permit or demolition permit for a vacant lot or a lot upon which there is an existing principal building which is to be removed (to an extent greater than 80%) and replaced with a new principal building shall be accompanied by a bond in the sum of $500 for each 1,000 square feet or part thereof of land contained in the lot which is the subject matter of the application which is to be disturbed or is within five feet of the line indicating the proposed extent of disturbance on the application.
Other. Each application for a building permit, soil movement permit or demolition permit other than as set forth above in Subsection D(8)(a) above and in which the total area of disturbance is less than 1,000 square feet shall not require the posting of any bond under this chapter. Any application not governed by Subsection D(8)(a) above or exempt from the bonding requirement under this section shall be accompanied by a bond in the amount of $500 for each 1,000 square feet or part thereof of land contained in the lot which is the subject matter of the application which is to be disturbed or is within five feet of the line indicating the proposed extent of disturbance on the application.
Existing bond. In the event that a bond has been posted for the property in question for any of the activities regulated by this chapter and such bond remains in effect, the applicant may elect to have such existing bond satisfy all or a part of any new bonding requirement under this chapter, provided that the terms of the bond are so modified and the amount is the greater of the amount required at the time of initial posting or at the time of the subsequent application.
Resort to bond. Upon completion of the work for which the building permit or soil movement permit was issued, the applicant shall notify the Borough Engineer, Building Inspector or other appropriate official, and such official shall arrange for an inspection of the work and verification that the terms of the tree removal permit have been satisfied. Upon completion of such inspection, the Inspector shall either confirm that the conditions have been satisfied or advise the applicant of any deficiencies. The applicant shall be granted a period of 30 days (or such longer period as the Borough deems appropriate due to weather conditions or seasons of the year) in which to correct such deficiencies. No permanent certificate of occupancy or other approvals shall be issued until the deficiencies have been corrected or a satisfactory plan for correction has been submitted to the Borough. In no event shall any portion of the bond be released or returned until the deficiencies are corrected. In the event that the applicant fails to correct the deficiencies as required after demand or otherwise fails to diligently pursue the work for which the permit was issued for a period of six months, unless the applicant demonstrates to the Borough good cause for the delay, the Borough may draw upon the bond to provide funds for the correction of such deficiencies. If the Borough elects to perform the work to correct any deficiencies, upon completion of such correction any remaining amounts shall be released/returned to the applicant and the applicant shall perform no further work on site unless and until a new permit is issued and new bonds posted.
Liability despite lack of bond. Exemption from the bonding requirements or insufficiency of any bond posted shall not absolve any person from the requirements of replacement for improperly removed trees.
Display of permit. A tree removal permit must be adequately displayed on any property where regulated tree removal has been authorized so that the permit is visible from the nearest public street until such time as the authorized cutting has ended and a final inspection has been conducted by the appropriate Borough official.
Appeal. In the event of denial of any permit or any other dispute under this chapter, the applicant may appeal from the decision of the Building Inspector or the Environmental Commission by sending a letter to the Planning Board for its decision and may be heard formally thereon as part of a regularly scheduled open meeting of the Planning Board.
Stop-work order issuance. If, upon a building site inspection, the Building Inspector finds that regulated trees have been removed in violation of this chapter, or he has reasonable cause to believe that there may have been a violation of this chapter, or if removal has violated the terms of any permit or approval issued by the Planning Board or Board of Adjustment, then in that event, no building permit, soil movement permit or demolition permit shall be issued until the alleged violation has been prosecuted and disposed of in the Municipal Court of Alpine. In addition, should the Building Inspector, the Borough Engineer or their duly appointed agents discover that a possible violation of this chapter has occurred, or if removal has violated the terms of any permit or approval issued by the Planning Board or Board of Adjustment, including any violation of an approved survey, subsequent to the granting of a building permit, soil movement permit or demolition permit, the Building Inspector, Borough Engineer or their duly appointed agents shall issue a stop-work order until such time as the violation is finally disposed of in the Municipal Court of Alpine. Where there are repeated violations the Building Inspector shall also have the authority to withhold the issuance of a final certificate of occupancy (CO) for that property pending correction of the violations. The Environmental Commission may recommend a stop-work order to be issued to the Building Inspector who is then directed to address the validity of the recommendation and respond to the Environmental Commission within 48 hours. If the stop-work order is contested at that time by the applicant, the burden of proof shall be the responsibility of the applicant.
Tree removal and replacement standards.
All regulated trees within the area of disturbances shall be indicated on the required site plan or preexisting conditions plan. Every effort shall be made to provide a layout to avoid any disturbance within a regulated tree's dripline.
All regulated trees, including those shown or noted to be part of removal operations as well as those outside of removal operations that are removed, destroyed, or severely damaged, shall be replaced except as provided in Subsection E(4) below. Replacement shall be made with no less than a four-inch caliper tree in accordance with the following restoration formula based upon the size of the regulated tree lost.
The caliper of trees with multiple trunks at a height of four and one-half feet above the ground shall be calculated by multiplying the caliper of the largest trunk at such height by 1.5.
Deciduous trees removed shall be replaced by trees of at least four-inch caliper, the species of which is either identical to the tree being removed or is otherwise referred to in the U.S. Soils Conservation Service as being comparable with the soil type, or a coniferous tree of at least eight feet in height at the time of planting.
Coniferous trees shall be replaced by a similar coniferous tree of at least eight feet in height at the time of planting.
Should it become necessary to replant within any buffer area, it is recommended that use of species as outlined in the Borough's Route 9W Buffer Zone Maintenance Guidelines. Tree replacement and the number of trees required shall be determined by the Borough agency by the ability of the land to accommodate said trees.
If sufficient space is not available on the lot on which the development is proposed, the Borough agency may require the applicant to plant the replacement trees on other lands owned by the applicant within the Borough of Alpine, on Borough park lands, within public street rights-of-way or any combination thereof. In lieu of off-site replacement, the applicant may contribute to the Alpine Environmental Commission Fund based on a replacement cost estimate prepared by the Borough Engineer.
Downed, severely damaged and destroyed trees within the saved limits shall not be removed until inspected for caliper reference by the Borough agency. Those trees removed prior to inspection shall be deemed to be the highest caliper tree lost.
Hardship. Hardship in connection with requests for removal shall be based on an examination of all the circumstances considering the applicant's needs. If the needs of the owner outweigh the public benefit promoted by retention of regulated trees, the hardship requiring removal shall be found to exist and the permit shall issue.
Limit of removal. Any area to be occupied by a building, driveway, drainage field, septic tank, recreation area (tennis courts, swimming pools or similar facilities) may have the regulated trees removed but removal shall not be permitted more than 15 feet around the perimeter of such facilities. Any trees removed under this provision, except those that are located in a required buffer area, shall not be subject to the replacement provisions of this section.
Cut/fill. In areas in which a required cut or fill deemed injurious or dangerous to trees is proposed, removal of regulated trees in such area, as determined by the Building Inspector, Planning Board or Environmental Commission, shall be permitted.
Standards. The permit shall be granted if there is a finding that the removal and destruction will not impair the growth and development of remaining and new trees on the property of the applicant or adjacent properties and would not cause erosion of soil, impair existing drainage, lessen property values in the neighborhood or impair the aesthetic values of the area.
Buffer areas. The spirit of the provisions of this section shall be to grant permits in buffer areas only for compelling reasons as it is essential to maintain aesthetic values, preserve privacy and drainage control. Removal of any trees in any required buffer area is discouraged and is permitted only with approval by the Planning Board or Board of Adjustment. In the event it is necessary to remove trees within the buffer area for any reason all trees removed shall be replaced in accordance with Subsection E(2) above. To the extent possible, replacement shall occur within the buffer area.
Timeframe requirement for replacement trees. Planting of replacement trees shall be required within two years from the date of tree removal. In the event that any replacement tree shall die or be in serious decline within one year after planting, the applicant or property owner shall replace it within one year. The requirement for replacement is not considered a penalty, rather an implementation of the purpose of this section. Replacement shall not be a substitute for, but shall be in addition to, any penalty imposed for violation of the provisions of this chapter.
Protection of regulated trees.
Prior to the commencement of any excavation or grading work on site, snow fencing or other protective barriers shall be placed at the regulated tree's dripline, and shall remain in place until all construction activity on the property has terminated in order not to disturb the soil and thereby injure the regulated tree. No equipment, chemicals, soil deposits or construction materials shall be placed within any area so protected by barriers. Any landscaping or activities subsequent to the removal of the barriers shall be accomplished with light machinery or hand labor.
The grade of the land within the dripline shall not be raised or lowered more than six inches unless compensated by welling or retaining wall methods; and in no event shall welling or retaining wall methods be less than 10 feet from the trunk of a regulated tree.
Exempt lands or activities. The following lands or activities shall be exempt from the provisions of this section: orchards; Borough, county and state land; Palisades Interstate Park lands; and the lands owned by the Boy Scouts of America or any of its subsidiaries and used by them for scouting purposes.
Removal of diseased regulated trees; fees of service for tree experts.
No fee shall be charged for a permit authorizing the removal of diseased or damaged regulated trees in accordance with Subsection D(2)(b) herein.
In cases where the services of a tree expert is required where a building permit, soil movement permit or demolition permit is applied for at the same time, the cost thereof shall be borne by the applicant and payment of the same shall be a condition precedent to the release of the bond filed or the issuance of a permit.
Liability. Liability for improper removal shall be imposed upon the person removing or destroying any tree in violation of this chapter. In addition, the owner, tenant or other person in control of the property at the time of removal or destruction shall also be liable for such actions.
Qualification. A tree may qualify as a landmark tree if it meets one or more of the following criteria:
The tree species is rare.
The tree is more than 100 years old.
The tree has exceptional height, trunk diameter or dripline for a tree of its species.
The tree location, shade value, fragrance, erosion control, aesthetic feature, or scenic enhancement is of special importance to the Borough's character or property of the owner.
The tree is a rare ornamental or flowering tree.
The tree has historical or cultural significance.
Nomination. The Department of Public Works or the Environmental Commission may nominate any tree on Borough property for landmark tree status in accordance with the process contained herein. Relying on the same nomination process, a property owner also may seek landmark tree status for a tree on his or her own property. Once nominated, the tree is subject to approval by the Environmental Commission for designation as a landmark tree. The subject tree will be temporarily designated with landmark status to avoid untimely removal during the formal landmark designation process.
Register. All trees that have been designated as approved landmark trees shall be shown, with each tree's designation date, location, species, age, size, and other distinguishing characteristics, on the official Landmark Tree Register maintained by the Environmental Commission with a duplicate copy on file with the Borough Clerk, Building Department, Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustments.
Identification. If the owner of the property on which a landmark tree is located consents thereto, the Borough may identify such tree as a landmark tree by the placement of a suitable marker thereon.
Removal. No person shall cut down or remove any landmark tree, whether such tree is located on Borough or private property, without first obtaining approval of the Environmental Commission and a permit pursuant to this chapter.
Permit required for certain acts. No person shall do or cause to be done any of the following acts affecting trees, shrubbery or ornamental material planted or growing naturally within the rights-of-way or public property under the jurisdiction of the Borough, except with a written permit obtained from the Department of Public Works:
Cut, trim, break, disturb the roots of, or spray with chemicals any living tree or shrub; or injure, misuse or remove any structure or device placed to support or protect any tree or shrub.
Plant or remove, or climb with spikes, any living tree or shrub.
Fasten any rope, wire, electric attachments, sign or other device to a tree or shrub, or to any guard about such tree or shrub.
Close or obstruct any open space provided about the base of a tree or shrub to permit the access of air, water or fertilizer to the roots of such tree or shrub.
Pile any building material, or make any mortar or cement, within 10 feet of a tree or shrub.
Change the grade of the soil within the limits of the lateral spread of the branches of any such tree.
Protection of trees from wire, cable or electric current. Every person having control over any wire for the transmission of an electric current along rights-of-way or public property shall at all times guard all trees through which, or near which, such wire passes against any injury from the wire or cable or from the electric current carried by it. The device or means used shall in every case be subject to approval by the Department of Public Works.
Guy wires and braces prohibited. No person shall place any guy wire, brace or other device on any tree upon rights-of way or public property in such a manner as to injure it.
Injury by animal. No person shall hitch or fasten an animal to any tree or shrub upon rights-of-way or public property or to any guard or support provided for the same, or permit an animal to bite or otherwise injure any tree or shrub.
Chemical damage. No person shall permit any brine, gas or injurious chemical or liquid to come in contact with the stump or roots of any tree or shrub on rights-of-way or public property.
Interference with Department of Public Works. No person shall prevent, delay or interfere with any lawful work undertaken by the Department of Public Works or its authorized agent.
Dangerous trees and shrubs.
Removal required; notice. In case any tree or shrub or any part thereof along rights-of-way or public property shall become dangerous to public safety, the owner of the property in front of which such tree or shrub is located shall forthwith remove the same, or the required part thereof, upon receipt of written directive to that effect from the Department of Public Works.
Standard established. The owner or tenant of any lands lying within the Borough shall keep all brush, hedges and other plant life, growing within 10 feet of any roadway and within 25 feet of the intersection of two roadways, cut to a height of not more than 2 1/2 feet. This shall not require the cutting down of any trees where there is vision through the trees at a height of between 2 1/2 feet from the ground and eight feet from the ground.
Removal by Borough. If the owner fails to remove the tree or shrub or portion thereof within two weeks after receipt of written notice to do so, the work shall be performed by the Borough under the supervision of the Superintendent of Public Works, who shall certify the cost thereof to the Council.
Costs charged against land; lien established. Upon receipt of the certified costs, the Council shall examine same and if found correct shall cause the costs to be charged against the lands, or, if the Council deems the costs to be excessive, shall cause the reasonable cost thereof to be charged against the lands. The amount so charged shall forthwith become a lien upon the lands and shall be added to and become and form part of the taxes next to be assessed and levied upon the lands, the same to bear interest at the same rate as other taxes, and shall be collected and enforced by the same officer and in the same manner as taxes.
Penalty. Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall be subject to a fine of $500 for the violation, plus an additional $250 per individual tree or $1,000 per landmark tree removed improperly or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding 90 days, or community service for 90 days, individually or in combination, at the discretion of the Magistrate of the Borough. Such penalty shall be in addition to the requirements of replacement.
If any person shall continue to violate any of the provisions of this chapter, after being duly notified of such violation, or shall neglect or refuse to comply with any lawful order of the Department of Public Works, the failure to comply with a second or each of any subsequent notifications or orders shall be construed as an additional violation of this chapter, and each such additional offense shall subject the offending party upon conviction to the same penalty as provided for the first offense.