By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
The Town of Grand Island Town Board heard a proposal for a new tree law that has been decades in the making.
During a work session meeting Monday in Town Hall, Jeff Green, chairman of the Conservation Advisory Board, introduced the board to a proposed new tree ordinance that he said has been discussed for 20 years. "We've compromised a lot and we've really worked hard on this particular ordinance," Green said. He called the proposal a ground-up movement from the public.
"They don't want to see the clear-cutting of the trees for no apparent use," Green said.
"This is in no way a punitive document anymore," Green claimed, saying the law had been "whittled down."
"We're just bringing it before you now so that you can get the necessary feedback that you need on the tree ordinance itself," Green said.
Green said 92 percent of the lots on the Island are exempted with 1.5 acres. He told the board, "I don't want you to think that there's anything punitive in here, because there's not." He explained if someone buys a forested parcel of land that's over 1.5 acres, and wants to cut down half of the trees on that parcel, they would apply for a permit from the town. The board would not prevent development at all, he said.
"We would like to know who the people are who are deforesting the Island," Green said.
Having a tree ordinance is one prerequisite of a Tree City USA designation for the town. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, its Tree City USA program "provides the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees."
"We see this as a kind of a step one of getting to be a Tree City USA," which Green said was an ultimate goal of the Conservation Advisory Board.
"Once we are a Tree City USA, we are eligible to apply for grant money to help us with the dead and dying ash trees."
Councilwoman Jennifer Baney said the proposal "helps us get the designation without being very restrictive on our citizens, which I think is a good goal."
The law would also call for the creation of a subcommittee on the trees. CAB member Diane Evans said, "We also foresee this board as helping the town come up with a management plan for trees, because we don't have one, and a preservation plan, so they would have more tasks than simply looking at permits."
Councilwoman Bev Kinney asked for the proposal to be sent to other town advisory boards, mentioning the Economic Development Advisory Board, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and Long Range Planning Committee. Councilman Mike Madigan said the message in the law is, "This is not saying you can't cut down a tree. This is basically slowing down the process so someone just doesn't overnight do a cut-down."
Monday prior to its regular meeting, the Grand Island Town Board recognized the Zonta Club of Grand Island with a proclamation acknowledging the club's "60 years of service to the community."
Zonta International was founded in Buffalo in 1919 and the Zonta Club of Grand Island was established on Feb. 1, 1958, as a service club of professional women "whose mission was to empower women through service and advocacy," the proclamation said.
According to the proclamation, the Zonta Club of Grand Island has awarded more than $126,000 in scholarships for women since its founding 60 years ago. In addition to scholarships, the Zonta Club of Grand Island has assisted women's shelters, the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation, Relay For Life, the Family Justice Center, and the Miracle League of Grand Island and WNY, among other beneficiaries. The club has assisted the Tribute Garden at Isle View Park, which honors lives affected by domestic violence.
In making the proclamation, the Town Board said the Zonta Club of Grand Island "has helped improve the lives of women and children around the world."
Pictured at the presentation of the proclamation at the board meeting are, from left: council members Pete Marston and Bev Kinney; Grand Island Zonta President Maria Burns; Deputy Town Supervisor Jim Sharpe; Grand Island Zonta Vice President Barb Nowakowski; council members Mike Madigan and Jennifer Baney. (Photo by Larry Austin)