Sunday, Apr 14th

Forum Committee Urges Stronger Measures to Save Scarsdale's Shrinking Tree Canopy

ChaseParkChase Park: Photo by Cynthia RobertsA committee of the Scarsdale Forum is calling for far-reaching changes to Village code regarding trees after a report revealed extensive losses to Scarsdale’s tree canopy. Committee Chair Madelaine Eppenstein, who is one of the authors of the report said, “the report cites six years of permit data compiled by the Village indicating significant tree loss — of almost 1,000 trees removed with permits annually — without adequate replacement planting to maintain Scarsdale’s tree canopy. This data does not reflect trees that are removed illegally, or legally under certain circumstances”

And why is it so important to maintain the tree canopy? The Village’s tree code clearly outlines why trees are essential.

It says, ““The Village of Scarsdale finds that trees within the Village provide an important contribution to the health, safety, aesthetics and general welfare of Scarsdale residents and the community at large. Trees provide shade and aesthetic appeal, enhance green space, improve air quality, reduce energy use and atmospheric carbon dioxide, provide and promote habitat for wildlife, impede soil erosion, aid water absorption, inhibit excess runoff and flooding, provide screening, offer a natural barrier to noise, provide other environmental benefits and generally enhance the quality of life within the Village. These social, economic, and ecological benefits often increase as trees mature and the Village community's investment in trees has accrued over many years. This investment can be rapidly lost and is not easily nor quickly replaced due to the long length of time for a tree to mature. The destruction of and damage to trees and the indiscriminate and excessive cutting of trees can create barren and unsightly conditions, as well as surface drainage problems, increase municipal costs to control drainage, impair the value of real property and adversely affect the environment, health and character of the community.”

In order to protect existing trees the report calls for the Village to change the tree code to preserve the canopy by limiting which types of trees can be removed, requiring more tree replacements than currently called for and stepping up enforcement and fines for illegal tree removals.

The report goes further by requiring permits for the removal of dead or dying trees or invasive species. About these trees the report says invasives, “are still part of our canopy, providing water absorption, shade, and animal habitat. Due to the change in how residents maintain their properties and the decreasing amount of green space in our neighborhoods, invasive trees cannot spread as freely as they did in the past. These trees should be treated like any other tree that requires a removal permit and replacement.”

In light of the current building moratorium the committee is asking the trustees to examine the tree code at the same time they are analyzing the Village’s building and land use codes, as they are intrinsically tied together.

At the conclusion of the report drafted by the Sustainability and Municipal Services Committees On Environmental Protection and Preservation of Trees in the Village of Scarsdale, they make the following recommendations to the Scarsdale Board of Trustees:

1. Village formation, as directed by the Mayor and Board of Trustees, of a committee comprised of Village staff and representatives of the Scarsdale Forum, Friends of the Scarsdale Parks, and the Conservation Advisory Council, to review and implement the recommendations set forth in this Report;

2. Amend the Village Code as recommended in this Report;

3. Enforce the Village Code and amendments as recommended in this Report;

4. Revise Village staff and land use board procedures as set forth in this Report;

5. Appoint a voting member focused on environmental issues to the Board of Architectural Review. See also Scarsdale Inquirer, Letter to the Editor (Jan. 14, 2024, l

6. Institute a public education campaign and enlist the cooperation and support of the public consistent with these recommendations.

The report concludes with the following:

The six-year spreadsheet compiled by the Village regarding tree removal regulation reveals an ongoing practice of permitting the removal of trees without requiring replacements in kind, among other affirmative measures that could and should be taken to protect and preserve trees and our tree canopy. This history must be reversed before Scarsdale, our beloved village in a park, is reduced to an overbuilt and unremarkable suburb.

The report quotes world-renowned entomologist and wildlife ecologist Professor Douglas W. Tallamy who says,“We do not have the right to heat up our neighbor’s airspace by cutting down the trees on our property. . . . In short, we no longer have the right to ignore the stewardship responsibilities attached to land ownership. Our privately owned land and the ecosystems upon it are essential to everyone’s well-being, not just our own. Abusing land anywhere has negative ramifications for people everywhere."

In enacting Local Law No. 1 of 2024, the Board of Trustees has acknowledged the urgent need to reexamine Village Code provisions and related rules and regulations – as well as the practices of the land use boards and Village staff – in order to protect the character and environment of our Village. How we continue to approach development forms the basis of what our Village will be and what we leave for future generations. The Committees respectfully submit that significant steps must be taken expeditiously to amend the Village Code, to enforce the Village Code, and to enhance land use processes in order to stem the damage to our environment.”

Read the report here:

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