Lower Mac Proposes Tree Cutting Ordinance

A timber harvesting ordinance being proposed by the LMT BOC would require residents to apply for a permit to cut down more than three trees on their property within a calendar year.

An ordinance is being proposed by the Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners that would require residents to apply for a permit to cut down more than three trees on their property within one calendar year. This would apply to trees with trunks thicker then 6 inches at breast height.

The proposed penalty for cutting down a fourth tree without a permit would be $1,000 plus costs.The residential part of the ordinance has provisions for sick, or damaged trees.The ordinance does not state the costs associated with applying for this permit.

The ordinance also deals with commercial tree removal. It requires logging operations to operate in a sustainable manner and prohibits clear cutting which entails cutting down all the trees in a specified area. 

Lastly, the ordinance allows trees to be cut down when zoning permits are issued for buildings. This includes the space of the future building, within 15 feet of proposed buildings and within 10 feet of driveways.

The commercial aspect of this ordinance is great. However, I think the residential limit of three trees in one year deserves some more thought and discussion. 

Certainly forest protection in the township is important. Woodland protection helps control erosion issues, sedimentation and runoff. Trees are an asset. But does this ordinance strike the proper balance between landowners rights and community good?

Would a policy that somehow rewards planting native trees make sense to augment this?

I would support something a little more specific in terms of protecting high value aesthetic trees (streetscape) and those in environmentally sensitive areas as opposed to a blanket limit of three trees per lot.

This would be more appropriate in terms of the delicate balance between landowner rights and protecting community assets. 

Our township has many property owners with large wooded lots. Good forest management includes pruning forests, cutting down invasives and replanting with natives, promoting growth of desirable lumber trees and wildlife friendly nut trees along with opening sunlight to promote understory growth for songbird food and protection.

This is an ordinance that would affects almost every township resident. What are your thoughts? 

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Ron Beitler June 01, 2012 at 06:22 PM
How do we differentiate between commercial logging operation restrictions and woodlot property owners?
Rob Hamill June 01, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Commercial loggers work for woodlot property owners. The profit motive and lack of regulatory restrictions will keep our forests sustainable. You take the profit motive away and restrict through regulations what a woodlot owner can do, and he will get disgusted and pack it up, and sell to developers. That is what The Penn State Forestry school has researched and found to be true. A forest thinning can sometimes look like a bad haircut, but in a little while, you look like a million bucks.
Michael D Siegel June 01, 2012 at 08:20 PM
The real issue is control of timber harvesters. Making sure timber harvesters do not ruin slopes by allowing erosion to go unchecked and creating logging trails that are properly stabilized for future harvesting. The timber harvesters must leave enough saplings to spur regrowth. Street trees must not be touched without a permit. Timber harvesting penalties without a permit must be so severe that the incentive to do it will not be an issue. Usually replacement trees to a 4:1 ratio will do the trick. I have written several tree ordinances and the sole purpose is to stop developers from tearing every tree down to meet stormwater calcs for reducing the size of basins before they submit their land development plan. This way they can create more lots by saying they had grass cover before they get approval.
Rob Hamill June 02, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Michael, That specific problem should be able to be handled with very specific language, if it really is a problem. When you give a gobment a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and property owners are rich targets.
Michael D Siegel June 05, 2012 at 09:21 PM
My 2 Cents, Grandfathering is called a non-conforming use or a nonconforming lot dependent on the type zoning description and definition in the zoning ordinance. Properties can have a non-conforming use such as a beauty salon being operated at the residence in a zone that no longer permits this beauty salon as an accessory use Trees on an existing wooded lot follow the same type of description. They are trees that were previously permitted but removal of all or majority of those trees may constitute a non-conformance of that lot. Trees are also in deed restrictions and many residents do not know about these restrictions when they buy the property (eg street trees and buffer trees. Getting a free permit to remove the trees may save the resident a lot of heartache and possibly a lot of money. Replacing cut trees can run up 500 each dollars for 3 inch caliper trees or bigger.


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