HOWELL – Residents from The Villages voiced concerns at a recent town council meeting over oak trees being cut down in their 55 and over community.
“I’d like to address the cutting down of landmark and historic oak trees in our development for absolutely no reason at all, perfectly healthy trees,” said Reeve Apgar, who is currently a trustee at The Villages.
He and fellow Villages resident Kathy Noyes told Mayor Theresa Berger and councilmembers that several trees were cut down without a proper inspection. They referenced portions of the Township Code on Land Use, specifically Woodlands Management, which says that a landmark tree is defined by any tree with a diameter at breast height of 16 inches or greater.
“The trees that were cut down in the past two weeks were 26 to 28 inches in diameter at breast height,” said Apgar, adding, “The excuse that was given to the people that were at the landscape meetings was that people were stepping on acorns and tripping.”
Director of Community Development James Herrman told residents that the homeowner’s association of The Villages had approached his staff stating that the trees were hazardous and that they were going to take them down. Herrman said the trees had been causing tripping hazards and that dead branches had continually fallen on vehicles and in close proximity to houses. He believed that there had been an inspection prior to them being cut down, but said he would need to check on that before confirming.
“I was told these were hazardous trees,” added Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro, “According to our ordinance, trees that do create a hazard are exempt from a permit and that’s the extent that I know.”
Howell’s Township Code states the “removal of trees by homeowner which are dead, dying or diseased or trees which suffered severe damage or any tree or trees whose angle or growth makes them a hazard to structures or human life” as an exception.
Noyes said it all started when a tree limb fell and hit a Village resident’s car and left a dent, and since then, that resident has been trying to get the tree taken down. Three trees have been cut down so far, one of which she said tried to regrow its branches and leaves while it felled.
Noyes feels that if you’re a resident in The Villages and you don’t like a tree, you can have it taken down for no reason. She and Apgar were labeled as “tree huggers” during Villages landscape meetings when they asked to be informed about any future removal of large trees in the community.
Community Management Corporation, the managing agent for The Villages, did not return a seeking comment by press time.