[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Hopatcong 5-19-1988 by Ord. No. 21-88. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The purpose of this chapter is to regulate and control the indiscriminate and excessive removal, cutting, clear cutting and destruction of trees in order to prevent conditions which cause increased surface drainage with commensurate loss of groundwater infiltration to replenish subsurface water supplies; siltation, sedimentation, soil erosion and decreased soil fertility; dust conditions and mosquito breeding places; and impairment of the stability and value of real estate; all of which conditions are now and will be in the future a detriment to the public safety, health and general welfare.
Except as provided by the terms of this chapter, no person shall conduct any tree farming or tree harvesting operation which results in the destruction of any tree as defined in this chapter and not exempted from this chapter, by the terms of § 228-3.
Exempted from this chapter shall be:
Any tree that endangers life or property or any dead or diseased tree removed by the owner, his agent or someone acting under authorization of the owner or agent.
Any dogwood or American holly tree with a diameter of two inches or less or any other tree of a diameter of four inches or less measured at a point three feet above the ground.
Any tree removed as a part of a nursery, garden center or orchard, provided that the area is being actively used and is not a component part of an ongoing or contemplated subdivision or development for building purposes, and further provided that said facility is in accordance with an approved site plan. The enforcing official may require the owner of said nursery, garden center or orchard to submit an affidavit certifying that tree removal is not a component part of a subdivision or other development.
Trees removed in the development of ponds and lakes, when supervised by the Soil Conservation Service and/or the Federal or State Forestry Service, provided that a letter so stating is filed with the Construction Official and signed by the appropriate supervising agency, and provided that said pond or lake has been granted site plan approval.
Trees removed or cut in any emergency action taken by the Hopatcong Fire Department, the Hopatcong Borough Department of Public Works and the electric or telephone or cable television utility or the New Jersey Forest Fire Service or their authorized agents.
Trees growing in a public right-of-way and removed at the direction of a governmental authority.
Trees removed as part of a licensed sanitary landfill operation.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- CUT or CUTTING
- The cutting of the main trunk of a tree so that the tree is destroyed or such cutting will lead to its destruction, but such cutting shall not be construed to prohibit normal pruning.
- HARVESTING PLAN
- A plan submitted as part of a tree or forest management plan which shall include the area to be harvested; its existing forest condition; size, species and volume of timber being harvested; conservation methods to be used; and a plat map showing the boundary lines of the cutting/ harvesting area. Where harvesting will occur within 100 feet from the boundary line of any adjacent property, the applicant shall list those property owners by name, lot and block number. In addition, the harvesting plan shall contain a description of equipment and methods to be used in the actual removal of the timber and further contain a map showing all landing area, skid trails and logging roads. The harvesting plan shall contain any other requirements that may be required by the reviewing board upon review of the application.
- A designated parcel, tract or area of land established by a plat or otherwise as permitted by law and to be used, developed or built upon as a unit.
- NURSERY, GARDEN CENTER or ORCHARD
- Land used for the above purposes under controlled conditions and in accordance with site plan approval pursuant to Chapter 191 of the Code of the Borough of Hopatcong.
- A license issued by the Construction Official of the Borough of Hopatcong or a reviewing board of the Borough of Hopatcong for the removal or destruction of trees as defined by this chapter.
- Any individual, corporation, business or agent.
- PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY
- Any street or road shown on the Zoning Map of the Borough of Hopatcong.
- REVIEWING BOARD
- The Borough of Hopatcong Planning Board or Zoning Board of Adjustment, whichever Board has jurisdiction over a particular application.
- SANITARY LANDFILL
- Land used by the Borough of Hopatcong for the disposal of solid waste and licensed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
- Any woody plant having a diameter greater than four inches (circumference of 13.4 inches), measured at a height of three feet above the level of the ground, except that the diameter shall be two inches (circumference of 6.3 inches) for any dogwood or American holly.
- TREE EXPERT
- The Borough Environmental Commission or a person approved by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Tree Experts, as a tree expert.
- TREE FARMING OPERATION
- An operation involving the systematic planting, removal and/or replanting of trees for the purpose of sale for lumber, Christmas trees, energy, firewood or other similar commercial purposes.
- TREE HARVESTING OPERATION
- The removal of greater than 25 trees on a site in excess of five acres for the purposes of tree farming, sale of lumber, forest management or any other commercial or noncommercial purposes.
- TREE or FOREST MANAGEMENT PLAN
- A plan for the management of timbered or forested land developed or approved by a tree expert or an appropriate agency of the state or federal government. A tree or forest management plan shall include the proposal for management, the existing forest situation, silviculture alternatives, timer data, a harvesting plan and the forest regulation and development method. Said plan shall also include a soil erosion, sediment and surface water management plan pursuant to Chapter 197 of the Code of the Borough of Hopatcong.
Any person desiring to conduct a tree farming operation or tree removal operation for any property not exempted by § 228-3 shall prepare and submit an application on the forms provided by the municipality and pay the appropriate fee prior to the issuance of any permit. The permit shall be predominantly displayed in the immediate vicinity of the cutting operation.
Application in conjunction with a tree or forest management plan, tree farming operation, tree harvesting operation or logging operation.
Any application for removal of trees for any of the above purposes shall require the preparation of a tree or forest management plan.
The applicant shall forward 10 copies of the proposed tree or forest management plan, as well as the appropriate fees, to the Secretary of the Planning Board at least 28 days prior to the regularly scheduled meeting of the Planning Board in which the application is to be considered. The Secretary shall place the application on the agenda and immediately forward a copy of the application to the Borough Environmental Commission and Borough Engineer for review. In addition, the applicant shall notify all owners of property adjacent to the boundary lines of the property for which an application is sought if the intended harvesting will be carried on within 200 feet of the boundary lines. Said notice shall be sent to the owners by certified mail, return receipt requested, within 10 days of the submission of an application and inform the adjacent owners of the impending application and further give notice of the pending meeting in which the application shall be reviewed. The applicant shall obtain the names and addresses of said owners from the record of the Borough Construction Official.
Prior to the submission of the harvesting plan, each applicant shall physically mark all trees to be removed with a bright colored tape at diameter breast height (DBH) (4 1/2 feet above the ground and at the tree base).
In evaluating said application, the Planning Board shall consider the following: the impact of the cutting upon fire prevention and protection, conservation and ecological considerations and site rehabilitation; and find that the cutting or proposed tree removal will not result in or cause, increase or aggravate any or all of the following conditions:
The impaired growth or development of remaining trees on the property of the applicant or upon adjacent property.
Soil erosion, sedimentation and siltation.
Storm drainage or sanitary sewerage problems.
Dangerous or hazardous conditions.
Depression in the land value of the subject property and properties in the neighboring area.
Loss of wildlife habitat.
In making such determination, the Planning Board shall have the right to consult with professional experts, and the applicant shall reimburse the Borough for any fees paid to said experts for consultation and preparation of opinions or reports in connection therewith. In enforcing this section, the applicant shall deposit sufficient fees with the Borough pursuant to escrow fund provisions of Chapter 191 of the Code of the Borough of Hopatcong.
The Planning Board shall not act upon an application unless and until reports and recommendations have been received on the proposal from the Borough Environmental Commission and Borough Engineer. Failure of the Environmental Commission or Engineer to submit a report within 45 days of their receipt of the application shall be construed as a favorable recommendation.
The Planning Board, in its decision on the application, shall not be bound by the favorable actions of any other local, state, regional or federal boards with concurrent jurisdiction over the application.
Every application form shall contain the following information:
The name and address of the applicant and the status of the legal entity (individual, partnership, corporation of this or any other state, etc.).
The status of the applicant with respect to the land (owner, lessee, tenant, purchaser under contract, etc.).
Written consent of the owner of the land, if the applicant is not the owner.
The name of the person preparing any map, drawing or diagram submitted with and as a part of the application.
The location of the property, including street number and address, and block and lot number and current zone, as shown on the Official Tax Map of the Borough of Hopatcong.
The area and dimensions of the lot.
The location of trees, wooded areas, streams, lakes and wetlands on the lot.
The general slope and topography.
A map of locations of surrounding properties within 200 feet.
The location of the building, erected or proposed.
The location of installed and proposed roads, driveways, parking lots, recreation areas and garden areas.
The location of wells, septic tanks and drainage facilities on the lot, both in existence and proposed.
The location, size and species of trees to be removed.
The purpose for tree removal.
The proposed location, size and species of trees to be replanted.
The Construction Official or reviewing board may modify the application requirements for a specific application if, in their judgment, the number of trees involved or the topographic conditions warrant it.
Site inspections during application review process. The submittal of an application for tree removal shall be construed, unless otherwise indicated by the application, as permission for a Borough representative to inspect the site of the proposed tree removal at reasonable times in accordance with the provision of this section.
Site inspection during ongoing operations. Once the reviewing board grants approval, the tree removal shall be subject to a biannual inspection by a licensed professional engineer and/or duly qualified expert as appointed by the Mayor and Council. The fees for such inspection shall be paid by the permit holder. In addition, the Construction Official, representative of the reviewing board, Borough Engineer and/or the Borough Environmental Commission may make additional inspections as warranted at any reasonable time.
Referrals. The reviewing board may refer any application to the Borough Engineer, Borough Environmental Commission, Borough Board of Health, Sussex County Soil Conservation District, Sussex County Shade Tree Commission, the Lake Hopatcong Regional Planning Board or any other similar agency for comment.
Time limit for decision. For all applications involving a management plan or a logging operation, the time period for consideration shall be 90 days from the submittal of a complete application.
Basis for decision. The reviewing board shall endorse its decision upon the application and, in the case of partial or complete disapproval, shall set forth the basis for such decision, which shall thereupon be transmitted to the applicant.
Duration of permit. The duration of any permit issued under this chapter shall be one year. Upon expiration, a permit must be renewed prior to continued tree removal. Renewal of permits shall not be unreasonably denied.
No certificate of occupancy shall be issued unless tree removal has been in accordance with the approved plan and all trees required to be planted are in fact planted in accordance with the approval plan or a bond guaranteeing such planting has been posted with the Borough Clerk. The bond shall be in the principal sum of $100 per tree involved.
The clear cutting of trees is hereby prohibited.
Trees shall not be removed from an area within 50 feet of the edge of a stream or a lake or from within 50 feet of a wetland and/or marsh unless the tree removal falls under those trees exempted by other parts of this chapter. This applies also to areas adjacent to seasonal streams. This footage requirement may be varied at the discretion of the reviewing official or board if warranted by specific characteristics of the property under development.
Any grading plan shall protect standing trees from machine operation, soil storage or material storage by distance or property barrier. Any damaged tree shall be replaced.
Any tree used in a required planting or to replace a damaged tree shall be at least 2.5 inches in diameter, measured 4.5 feet from the top of the root level.
Tree removal from any slope in excess of 15% is prohibited if it will contribute, in the opinion of the reviewing board or the Construction Official, to extra runoff of surface water onto adjoining properties or to erosion and silting, unless other means approved by the Borough Engineer are provided to prevent runoff and erosion.
No tree removal is permitted that will expose billboards, utility substations, transmission towers, warehouses, junkyards or landfill operations. Trees which constitute significant screening between existing or proposed buildings on contiguous lots shall be retained to the best practicable extent.
No healthy tree or grove of trees that is special by virtue of history, unusual size or age or of rare species and designated as such by either the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Borough Environmental Commission or a similar agency shall be removed.
No trees on public rights-of-way, parks or other publicly owned areas are to be removed by private individuals unless approved by the governing body or, when appropriate, the Environmental Commission or Recreation Commission.
No tree removal will be permitted if, in the opinion of the reviewing board, the tree removal will impair the drainage conditions, create soil erosion, increase the dust or deteriorate the property value, unless a plan is filed with and approved by the Borough Engineer and Environmental Commission which will demonstrate how the applicant will alleviate said condition.
Tree removal in a critical area, as defined in § 242-10 of the Code of the Borough of Hopatcong, is prohibited unless warranted by the specific characteristics of the property under development.
The removal of greater than 50% of the trees on any lot is prohibited unless warranted by the specific characteristics of the lot under development.
The planting plan shall be presented as part of the application to the reviewing board. The plan shall follow standards and recommendations set forth as follows:
Species selection shall be according to published recommendations of the New Jersey Federation of Shade Tree Commissions.
Planting stock shall conform to published standards of the American Association of Nurserymen.
Planting stock shall be procured from a New Jersey nursery, certified by the Division of Plant Industry, New Jersey Department of Agriculture or equivalent. A receipt of purchase must be available upon request by an authorized Borough official.
The following regulations shall be complied with during construction following the issuance of a tree removal permit:
Restriction of vehicles to construction or tree removal areas. There shall be no excavation on the site other than required test borings or other soil tests before the reviewing board has approved the location of the stake-out of the drives, parking sites and other areas shown on the plan. Construction equipment shall be limited to the actual area to be graded according to the approved plans. No material or temporary soil deposits shall be placed within six feet of any tree for any period in excess of six weeks. No heavy equipment shall be operated in such a manner as to break, tear, bruise, decorticate or otherwise injure any living or dormant tree.
Responsibility of permittee. The permittee shall be fully responsible for any damage caused to existing trees or other vegetation and shall also be responsible for replacing any such damaged trees or vegetation, as well as any trees which are removed in violation of this chapter. The permittee shall carry the responsibility for his own employees, contractors and subcontractors.
Prior to the acceptance of an application for a permit under this chapter, the applicant shall pay to the Borough of Hopatcong the following fees:
Application for management plan or logging operation: $100 for the first acre and $25 per additional acre or fraction thereof.
The owner or applicant shall reimburse the Borough for all costs of the Municipal Engineer or other expert advice and technical assistance obtained in connection with the application for an approved plan in addition to the above fee schedule and shall deposit with the Borough before the hearing thereon an amount estimated to cover said additional costs.
In order to guarantee the planting of trees and protection of trees as outlined in a tree removal or planting plan, a performance guaranty shall be posted with the Borough Clerk for all applications. The exact amount of the guaranty shall be determined by the reviewing board, but in no event is the guaranty to exceed 120% of the projected costs. Upon approval of the Construction Official or Borough Engineer that the job has been satisfactorily completed, the performance guaranty shall be returned.
In order to guarantee the life of the trees involved on the lot for which the permit was issued or on any other lot if work for which the permit was issued causes them damage, the Construction Official or reviewing board may require that a maintenance guaranty be posted with the Borough Clerk and remain in force for a period of up to three years following satisfactory completion of the approved tree removal, planting plan or management plan. Said guaranty shall be adequate to cover replacement of trees or movement of earth or trees or other anticipated measures to accomplish the intent of the plans. The amount of the guaranty shall be determined by the Construction Official or reviewing board after consultation with the Borough Engineer and shall not exceed 100% of the project costs. Upon expiration of the period, the maintenance guaranty shall be returned.
The applicant or any other aggrieved party shall have the right to appeal any decision of the Construction Official or the reviewing board under this chapter to the governing body. Said appeal must be filed in writing in quadruplicate with the Borough Clerk within 10 days of receipt of the decision. Upon receipt of the appeal, the Borough Clerk shall, within three working days, transmit copies to the Environmental Commission, the reviewing board and to the Borough Engineer. The governing body shall proceed to hear said appeal, upon notice to the applicant, within 35 days after the filing of the appeal. The appellant shall give at least 10 days' notice of the hearing to owners of property within 200 feet of the appellant's lot. Any interested party may appear in person or by representative to give testimony. The governing body may, in its discretion and upon complete review of the application and after hearing the testimony of the hearing, reverse, modify or affirm the aforesaid decision. No tree removal shall be permitted during the pendancy of the approval.
The Construction Official and his authorized agents shall be the primary enforcing officers for this chapter. The Construction Official may, on his own initiative or on complaint of any person, take action in Municipal Court to ensure compliance with this chapter.
The Police Department and Health Officer shall also be empowered to enforce this chapter and may, on their own initiative or upon complaint of any person, take action in Municipal Court to ensure compliance with this chapter.
Any aggrieved person may, on his own initiative, take action in Municipal Court to ensure compliance with this chapter.
The Construction Official, either on his own initiative or upon the recommendation of the Borough of Hopatcong Planning Board, Board of Adjustment or Environmental Commission, may, in the event of a violation hereunder or a failure to comply with the requirements of a permit, revoke any tree removal permit or permits granted hereunder, building permit or permits, certificate or certificates of occupancy, as the case may be, or issue such stop order or stop orders, as the case may be, or seek to enjoin any such failure or violation through a court of competent jurisdiction or take such other steps as may be authorized and permitted by law to correct such violation or enforce implementation of the terms and conditions of this chapter.
Any person, firm, corporation or other legal entity in violation of any provision of this chapter (other than § 228-7) shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine not to exceed $500 or 90 days in jail, or both, for each such offense. Each separate act, action or conduct in violation of this chapter shall constitute a separate offense.
Enforcement under this chapter by the Borough of Hopatcong does not preclude civil actions by the owner of the trees involved against any person for unauthorized removal of trees, actions by adjoining property owners for damage arising from the tree removal or actions under any other federal, state or municipal law or ordinance.
The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed so as to foster the fundamental purposes and objectives of this chapter. This chapter shall be enforced in conjunction with Chapter 197 of the Code of the Borough of Hopatcong. Compliance with this chapter does not relieve the applicant from any other requirement under Chapter 197 or any other chapter of the Code of the Borough of Hopatcong.