[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Meeting of the Town of Old Lyme 1-28-2002. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Trees and shrubs in Old Lyme are a valuable asset in the environment of the Town and an important attribute of our surroundings, contributing positively to the quality of life. Therefore, the Town of Old Lyme establishes this chapter, the "Tree Ordinance," to provide for the care, protection, maintenance, and enhancement of the trees, shrubs, and forests of Old Lyme, to provide for the public safety which may be threatened or impacted by dangerous conditions that develop or are induced in trees, and to promote the public good as it is benefited by the healthful effects, the aesthetic contributions, and the environmental qualities provided by our trees and shrubs.
Although not required to do so under this chapter, property owners living proximate to trees on public lands, e.g., trees along the road in front of their properties, are encouraged to care for these trees by watering, fertilizing, spraying and providing other care that will support the trees' healthy growth.
This chapter provides the Town of Old Lyme with full power and authority over all trees and shrubs located within streets, rights-of-way, parks, forests, and public spaces of the Town, and trees and shrubs located on private property that constitute a hazard or threat to the public safety. The Town shall have authority as a matter of right over limbs, roots, or parts of trees and shrubs that are growing on private property that extend or overhang any municipal road, right-of-way, or grounds.
The Tree Warden, appointed by the Board of Selectmen in accordance with the provisions of C.G.S. § 23-58, shall have the powers and duties with respect to trees and shrubs within the Town as are set forth in C.G.S. §§ 23-59, 23-60 and 23-65. Furthermore, he shall remove or cause to be removed all illegally erected signs or advertisements placed upon poles, trees or other objects within any public road or place under his jurisdiction, as set forth in said C.G.S. § 23-59.
There shall be established a Tree Commission which shall be responsible for establishing goals, policies and operative methods with respect to the tree and shrub assets of the Town.
Composition. The Commission shall be composed of five members, appointed by the Board of Selectmen. The First Selectman and the Tree Warden shall be nonvoting ex officio members of the Commission.
Terms of office. The initial terms of office shall be three years for two members, two years for two members and one year for one member. Thereafter, at the expiration of the initial term of each member, a successor shall be appointed for a term of three years.
There shall be two alternate members of the Tree Commission who shall be electors of the Town and who shall be appointed by the Board of Selectmen for a term of one year each January.
In the event a regular member of the Tree Commission shall be absent or disqualified, the Chairman shall designate an alternate member to so act, choosing alternates in rotation so that they shall act as nearly an equal number of times as possible.
The Tree Commission, in conjunction with the Tree Warden, may set standards and undertake actions for maintenance of the trees and shrubs on Town lands, for example pruning, fertilizing, planting, and protection from disease and pests. Trees that constitute a hazard or a threat to public safety or private structures because of a deteriorated condition, trees and shrubs that interfere with safe roadway traffic, trees that are an imminent threat to utility facilities, or trees and shrubs that are diseased, etc., may be removed under the authority of the Tree Warden or otherwise maintained so as to remove the danger or risk. The Tree Commission shall advise the Town on new and replacement plantings of trees and shrubs and the maintenance of new and existing trees and shrubs. To this end, the Commission may develop and use aesthetic and environmental considerations; will consider present and future interference with utility facilities and roadway visibility and other public safety considerations; and may establish and manage a Town tree nursery.
Forest lands owned by the Town may be managed according to best professional forestry practices at the discretion of the Board of Selectmen. Cutting of trees on Town property for the purpose of forest management shall be permitted. Prior to any harvesting, a forest management plan shall be prepared by a Connecticut-certified forester that outlines landowner objectives and a set of actions that will achieve these objectives. Any forest management will be carried out using proper silvicultural techniques and best management practices and in accordance with all state and local regulations.
Private property. Trees or shrubs growing on private land, including limbs and/or roots, which, in the opinion of the Tree Warden, constitute a hazard or threat to public safety because of deteriorated conditions or disease, interference with safe roadway traffic, or imminent threat to utility facilities may be caused to be removed under the authority of the Tree Warden and in accordance with the procedures set forth in C.G.S. § 23-59.
Town and private contractors. Pruning, trimming, shaping, fertilization, and/or partial or complete removal of plantings on Town property or other property under control of the Tree Warden and the placement of new plants may be conducted by the Town Superintendent of Public Works, qualified private contractors, licensed arborists or private citizens recommended by the Tree Commission and authorized by the Tree Warden or the First Selectman.
Permits. A person, firm or corporation, other than the Tree Warden or the Superintendent of Public Works, who desires to plant, cut or remove, in whole or in part, any tree or shrub or part of such, including roots, within the limits of any public road or grounds shall apply in writing to the Tree Warden at the office of the First Selectman for a permit, which permit must be issued or denied within 60 days after the application has been made. The planting, cutting or removal may proceed only after a permit has been issued by the Tree Warden, and the work specified in such permit shall be commenced within 90 days after the permit has been issued. Before granting or denying a permit application, the Tree Warden may hold a public hearing, as provided in C.G.S. § 23-59. If the applicant is a public utility corporation, an alternative appeal procedure is provided for in C.G.S. § 23-65(f).
Enforcement. Unless the condition of a tree or shrub constitutes an immediate public hazard in the opinion of the Tree Warden, he shall, at least 10 days before removal or pruning of such tree or shrub under § 156-5, post a notice thereon stating his intention to remove or prune and shall notify in writing the owner of any private property as set forth in § 156-5B, if applicable. If any person, firm or corporation objects to such removal or pruning, he or it may appeal in writing to the Tree Warden within the time period stated on said notice, and the Tree Warden shall hold a public hearing thereon, with prior notice given as set forth in C.G.S. § 23-59. Within three days after such hearing, the Tree Warden shall render his decision granting or denying the appeal and shall cause notice of his decision to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the Town. Rights of appeal from such decision to the Superior Court for the Judicial District of New London are set forth in said C.G.S. § 23-59.
Fines for the violation of permit requirements are set forth in C.G.S. § 23-65(a), (b) and (c).
In addition, if damage to a tree or shrub, including the root zone, without the permit specified in § 165-6A hereof can, in the opinion of the Tree Warden, be repaired or recovered by replacement of the plant, the person, firm or corporation responsible shall be required to pay to the Town the cost of repair or replacement, whether the damage is caused by deliberate action, e.g., construction activities, or disregard of these regulations, or by accident, e.g., vehicle impact.