Middletown Planning Board member and GOP Candidate for Township Committee, Steve Massell, recently proposed to the township committee that homeowners should be taxed for cutting down trees on their properties.
During the public comments portion of the May 18th Middletown Township Committee Meeting, Massell read from a front page article of the Asbury Park Press, the first paragraph of a story entitled “Justices OK tree-clearing fee in Jackson”.
The paragraph stated that the “The state Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of Jackson’s tree-removal ordinance, which requires property owners to replace any healthy tree taken down or pay into a fund dedicated to planting trees and shrubs on public property.”
Massell said that he was upset at seeing sections of town “clear-cut” by developers in order to build housing developments like Harmony Glen, which is off of Harmony road, behind the Shoprite. He felt that by charging homeowners upwards of $800 per tree (to be put in a general fund for tree and shrub replacement like the Jackson tree-removal ordinance calls for), would be a good way to dissuade developers from building in town. He never thought of the cost to the average homeowner that would like to build a single family home on a private lot or the homeowners that would like to expand their existing homes. Deputy Mayor Scharfenberger pointed out to Mr. Massell that as a member of the planning board, he should be aware that the township already has ordinances in place to force developers into replanting a certain number of trees that had been clear-cut once a new development has been completed.
Steve Massell then left the podium, mumbling to himself something about how he still thought it would be a good idea if the township committee considered the Jackson ordinance, which surprises me. One would have thought that Massell would have first talked about this with his fellow GOPers before presenting his idea in front of the committee, after all Pam Brightbill and Tony Fiore sit on the planning board with Massell.
I have a couple of things I would like to point out to Steve Massell:
First, as a Planning Board member, you have a say in how builders develop property in town. When a builder brings prints to the planning board for approval why don’t you insist that a property could not be clear-cut? Have builders submit plans that leave some trees and shrubbery in place, I am sure that an architects could handle planning such a development.
Second, in the winter 2005 edition of Middletown Matters, then Mayor Tom Hall address the issue in the Mayor’s Message titled “Keeping the trees was not an option for the Crestview Drive & Route 35 site”.
He stated, “…can’t help but notice a new landscape. The stretch of woods located next to the revamped shopping center has been replaced with a barren, unattractive construction site.” “…I share the sentiments conveyed by many in phone calls, letters and conversations: I’d rather keep the trees. However, that’s simply not an option.”
So Steve, before you propose a tax on residents make sure that you do your homework first and check with the other members of your party before presenting such an idea, particularly since as a Planning Board member, you can already take steps against clear-cutting