Thursday, July 1, 2021

Changes to Plymouth Township tree ordinance proposed

Supervisor Kurt Heise
A new tree ordinance in Plymouth Township may have roots in the City of Plymouth, but will need to be pruned to accommodate the needs of township residents, according to Supervisor Kurt Heise.

Heise, who brought the ordinance provisions before the township board of trustees during a May 25 study session, repeatedly stressed that the ordinance was under discussion and that provisions would be tailored to the needs of the township. The current 74-year-old tree ordinance needs revamping, Heise said, and suggested that township attorney Kevin Bennett could use the City of Plymouth ordinance as a starting point for updating the township rules.

Heise said, during the meeting, that the city ordinance was only a starting point and that it was one of the “most restrictive-depending on your point of view”and detailed ordinances from a comparable community. He added that the city ordinance had already been thoroughly vetted, allowing Bennett to alter and edit the ordinance as township officials found necessary. He added that using the city ordinance would also save the township time and money. “It's a starting point,” he told the board of trustees.

He also claimed that the eventual approval of a new set of rules in the township would be a first step in securing a Tree City USA designation, something the City of Plymouth already enjoys.

He said that the township was already complying with the regulations required by the National Arbor Day Association to be designated as a Tree City USA and that the township was already planting and funding the maintenance of trees in the township. “The designation would be a nice way to show current and future residents that we care about trees,” he said.”

His suggestion, however, was not popular with some residents who noted that the city ordinance requires property owners to secure a permit to cut down trees on their property. They claimed the ordinance was too restrictive and violated their privacy rights.

Duane Zantop claimed that the city ordinance, if adopted, would be a violation of his “constitutional rights.”  He called the consideration of the ordinance outrageous and an intrusion. 

“There are currently thousands of lawsuits against tree ordinances of this kind going on right now. Are we prepared for more lawsuits? Get the hell out of my yard,” Zantop said.

Another resident said that he agreed with restrictions on business clear-cutting trees, the “bureaucratic monstrosity” of the ordinance would challenge the current township staff.

In response to the reactions of the audience, Heise again explained that this was a suggestion for a revamping of the ordinance designed to in the best interests of the township.

“Let me make this clear: I would never vote for this ordinance in its current form,” Heise said . “It's a starting point.”