[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town of Ridgefield 2-28-1996 (Ch. 15 of the 1974 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Ridgefield Tree Ordinance, Ridgefield, Connecticut."
Intent. It is the intent of the Selectmen of Ridgefield that the terms of this chapter shall be construed so as to promote:
The protection, preservation, proper maintenance and use of trees and shrubs on Town property, the minimization of disturbance to woodlands, and the prevention of damage from erosion and destruction of the natural habitat.
The protection of community residents from personal injury and property damage and the protection of the Town of Ridgefield from property damage caused or threatened by improper planting, maintenance or removal of trees and shrubs located within the community.
The protection of property values ensuing from the proper maintenance of street trees, natural, uncleared woodlands and trees of ecological or historical significance.
Purpose. The purpose of this chapter is to:
Plan, protect and manage these arboreal resources for the benefit of the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the Town.
Recognize the benefits provided by trees, including but not limited to buffering noise and unsightly views, improving air quality, offering habitats to birds, preventing erosion, absorbing water, mitigating climate by cooling the air and providing shade, offering aesthetic benefits, increasing property values and generally improving the quality of life within the Town.
For the purposes of this chapter, the following words, terms and phrases shall have the meanings herein set out:
- FORESTRY MANAGEMENT PLAN
- A management plan and resulting work plan prepared by the Tree Warden with the assistance of the Tree Committee for forestry work to be undertaken by the Town. The plan may include but is not limited to a long-range management plan; Town tree inventory; regulations and standards for the planting, pruning, maintenance and removal of trees and shrubs on Town property; lists of trees appropriate for planting in the Town; and recommendations for the preservation of trees on construction sites.
- LANDMARK, NOTABLE AND ASSET TREES
- Trees determined by the Tree Warden to be of great age or rarity, associated with an historical event or person, or of tangible value to the community for their scenic enrichment of the area and/or their ability to survive a specific disease. Special consideration will be given to the inspection and preservation of landmark, notable and asset trees on Town property. With the concurrence of the property owner, such designations may be applied to trees on private property.
- PROPERTY OWNER
- The owner of record or contract purchaser of any parcel of land.
- PUBLIC NUISANCE
- Any tree or shrub or part thereof growing upon private or Town property which is interfering with the use of any Town property, infected with infectious plant disease, or endangering the life, health or safety of persons or property.
- Woody plants, branched from the base, generally less than 15 feet tall when mature.
- TOWN PROPERTY
- Any property owned by the Town or under its jurisdiction or management, including property within lawfully established rights-of-way but excluding dedicated open space land under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission. Control shall extend to such limbs, roots or parts of trees and shrubs as extend or overhang the limits of any Town road, but responsibility shall not be assumed absent actual notice of conditions warranting exercise of control.
- TOWN RIGHTS-OF-WAY
- The unimproved portion of all Town roads.
- A woody plant, usually with one main trunk, reaching a height of at least 15 feet when mature.
Authority and power. The Tree Warden, appointed by the First Selectman with the approval of the Board of Selectmen as outlined in the Town Charter, § 9-16, shall have all powers, duties and authorities ascribed to him/her as set out in the Connecticut Public Shade Tree Statute, particularly C.G.S. §§ 23-58, 23-59, 23-60 and 23-65, as the same may be amended, and this chapter.
Compensation. The Tree Warden shall receive for services such compensation as the Selectmen, duly authorized, shall prescribe.
Duties. The Tree Warden shall:
Enforce all provisions of law for the preservation of trees and shrubs in the Town.
Develop and administer a forestry management plan for the Town.
Hire contractors for the pruning, maintenance or removal of trees or shrubs on Town property in accordance with the long-range management plan and the specifications and standards outlined in the forestry management plan.
Post a notice upon trees on Town property of their planned removal at least 10 days before removal is to take place, unless the condition of the trees constitutes an immediate public hazard.
Issue permits as required by this chapter, first obtaining the written agreement of each person who applies for such permits that he or she will comply with the requirements of this chapter and the forestry management plan.
Select and identify any trees which qualify as landmark trees, notable trees, and asset trees on Town property and, with the concurrence of the property owner, on private property.
Prevent damage to trees and shrubs on Town property by any person, company, utility or state or federal agency. Damage may include but not be limited to pruning, removing, defacing, cutting, painting, or marking trees; posting unauthorized signs on trees; injuring, mutilating, killing or destroying any trees or shrubs; permitting any toxic chemical, including excessive road salt or other deicing chemical, to seep, drain or be emptied on or about any tree; piling soil over roots to a suffocating depth or scraping soil above the roots; or setting fires or burying rubble within the trees' root zones.
Supervise to the extent possible work affecting trees performed by public utility companies or their agents. Such work shall be reviewed prior to being undertaken and shall be done according to the standards of the forestry management plan. If as a result of such work trees are irreparably damaged, the Tree Warden shall require the company to pay for replacing the trees with a similar species.
Composition. The Tree Committee shall be composed of seven members, three appointed by the Board of Selectmen and four appointed by the Conservation Commission. Each member of the Tree Committee shall be appointed for a term of three years, and terms shall be staggered so that at least two members are appointed each year. Members shall serve without compensation. To increase effectiveness, applicants for vacancies should meet with the Tree Committee before being considered for appointment to the Committee. Further, the Committee may suggest to appointing entities certain skills, experience or Committee preferences to be considered in applicants for appointment. The Tree Warden serves as a member ex officio.
Duties. The Tree Committee shall advise and consult the Tree Warden on any matter pertaining to this chapter and its enforcement. The topics under which this advice and consultation may be given may include, but are not limited to, amendments to this chapter; alterations or revisions to the forestry management plan; policies concerning selection, planting, maintenance, and removal of trees, shrubs and other plants within the Town; and development of community educational programs.
This chapter provides full power and authority over all trees, plants and shrubs located on Town property and rights-of-way, and to trees, plants and shrubs creating a public nuisance.
No person other than the Tree Warden may perform any of the following acts without first obtaining from the Warden a permit for which no fee shall be charged, and nothing in this section shall be construed to exempt any person from the requirements of obtaining any additional permits as are required by law:
Plant trees or shrubs of any size on Town property or remove or otherwise disturb any tree located on Town property or rights-of-way.
Attach any rope, wire, nail, sign, poster, or any other man-made object to any tree or shrub located on Town property or rights-of-way.
Dig a tunnel or trench, move or store construction vehicles, materials or equipment, or change the grade within a tree's root zone on Town property or rights-of-way.
As trees on private property often have an impact on Town property and rights-of-way and can under certain conditions pose a direct physical threat to the safety and welfare of residents as well as to Town trees, the Tree Warden can determine that such trees or shrubs constitute a public nuisance.
Upon making this determination, the Tree Warden shall write the owner or tenant in charge of the premises informing him/her of the nature of his/her liability. Unless the condition constitutes a public hazard requiring immediate attention, the responsible person shall, within 30 days after issuance of the notice, have the nuisance tree or shrub treated or removed as directed. No damage shall be awarded the owner for the trees or shrubs destroyed pursuant to this chapter.
In case the owner or tenant having charge of such premises shall refuse or neglect to comply with the terms of the written notice within 30 days after receiving it, the Tree Warden shall cause the removal, treatment or trimming of said nuisance tree or shrub. The expense thereof shall be charged to the owner of the premises on which the tree or shrub is located and, with respect to the cost for removing that portion interfering with any public area or public way, shall become a lien on the property upon record of notice thereof on the Town land records.
No person shall unreasonably hinder, prevent, delay or interfere with the Town Tree Warden or his/her agents while engaged in the execution or enforcement of this chapter.
Violation of any provisions of this chapter shall result in a fine and penalty of $50 in addition to any cost of curing or abating said violation. If the violation is of a continuing nature, each day shall constitute a separate offense.