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Town Seeks Horticultural Advice To Create A New Tree Ordinance

The Oyster Bay Town board held their second meeting to discuss proposed changes to the town code on their tree ordinance and adding specifications to growing bamboo on Sept. 4. It followed the Aug. 14 meeting that introduced the subjects. The proposed repeal of the tree ordinance created a stir among people who have long fought to preserve the quality of life in the township and as a result there were many speakers who wanted to be sure the trees would be preserved. At the Sept. 4, meeting both Muttontown Mayor Julianne Beckerman and Bayville Mayor Douglas Watson attended as listeners showing interest in the subject. Sea Cliff resident James Foote spoke about their tree ordinance in which the village is increasing the diameter of trees regulated.

After listening to the information from tree experts at the Sept. 4 meeting, Town Supervisor John Venditto said he would contact many of the experts and stakeholders to further discuss the ordinance.  Legislator Judy Jacobs, agreed saying she concluded that after the previous meeting it was good that a tree ordinance remain in place and it was important for people to get together to design a new law.

The speakers included Ben Jankowski, one of the founders of Oyster Bay Hamlet’s Save the Jewel By the Bay who said, “We are ready to make a new tree ordinance work. You are preaching to the choir and we stand at the ready waiting to do the work.” Patricia Aitken, Friends of the Bay executive director added to the comment saying one object of the OB/CSH watershed protection plan is to preserve the tree canopy through stewardship and that they encourage large trees. She hoped they would find a sweet spot between repeal and modification.

Supervisor Venditto said, “Balance is the word.”

Nathan Celauro suggested the tree permit be a progressive tax so that the more trees are cut down the higher the fee, as a way to discourage clear cutting.

Jack Beebe of Massapequa spoke eloquently about his bamboo garden begun in the 1960s. It has become a bird sanctuary for the retired couple who still work four days a week, down from seven days a week, to ensure being able to continue to live in Nassau County. Getting rid of his bamboo would kill him, he said. He even felt that way about cutting back a 10-foot border between his bamboo and his property line.

Mr. Venditto said he was not asking that he cut the bamboo down, just that it shouldn’t impact others.

Tom Golon of Wonderland Trees in Oyster Bay was also willing to help create the new ordinance. He said the current law had worked well and suggested the town inspectors elevate their professional training.

Jill Coby of East Norwich, with degrees in landscape architecture, architecture and historic preservation, said while bamboo is chosen as a screener, there are other plants that are as good and better to use. She said she worked with the county on tree legislation and would be writing to the town about the ordinance.

Mr. Jankowski added that Save the Jewel By the Bay recommended the tree ordinance include mention of tree maintenance by property owners be done by certified arborists as a way to both keep trees and keep them healthy.

In talking about the need for the new tree ordinance, Supervisor Venditto said the board felt that their governmental work should not include going onto private property and telling people what to do. Adding to that, residents complained about paying a fee for tree removal.

Mr. Jankowski commented that it can take from $1,000 to $3,000 to take a tree down — that the $75 cost for a permit was minimal.

There will be a great deal for the town to consider as it creates its new tree ordinance, including what one of the speakers said succinctly, “Trees are the lungs of the earth.”

As For Bamboo

Everyone testified that it is almost impossible to get rid of bamboo, although the town proposal at the moment doesn’t say eliminate it, but contain it. Most speakers strongly doubt it is possible to stop its growth. One speaker said it could be contained and another recommended the variety called clumping bamboo that they said does not put out runners.

Kevin Daekow, a horticulturalist and arborist said containment of bamboo is pointless. “It goes down 10 feet. You think it is gone and it comes back three years later. It goes through steel, concrete and plastic. It goes under, over or through.” He said the reason it grows on Long Island so well is “The orient has rocky soil and therefore the bamboo has slow growth; here we have silky sandy loam soil and it spreads like wildfire.”