Weekly Feature

2006-07-12 / Front Page

Town board moves to put limits on development, term limits

by JESSICA L. FINCH Associate Editor

Representatives of two local business organizations are not pleased with a resolution passed by the Amherst Town Board.

Late Monday night, the board approved a resolution sponsored by Council Member Shelly Schratz that would fine any developer or resident $5,000 for each tree unlawfully removed from a piece of property.

A public hearing was set for Aug. 7 on creating a temporary development moratorium that would encompass any properties where trees, hydric soils, flood plains and wetlands are present.

In addition to proposing a limitation on development, the resolution calls for amending a local law in order to require justification of tree removal.

"A certified arborist must justify the harvesting of any trees or (destruction of) any tree having a caliper greater than 4 inches, measured 6 inches above grade," Schratz wrote in her resolution. She added that trees can be selectively harvested not to exceed 50 percent of the canopy as recommended by a certified timber consultant.

Her resolution is in response to the Town Board's concerns about blatant disregard for wetlands and tree laws. She also said there is concern about the current rate and manner at which trees are being eliminated.

Colleen DiPirro, president of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, said she strongly opposes the resolution.

"It puts a moratorium on new jobs," she said, adding that it sends a message that Amherst is "closed for business" and will, as a result, increase taxes and loss of revenues.

DiPirro said the cause and effect of the resolution are unclear, and she hoped the board would have put aside the resolution until August when a report on the situation could be reviewed.

Her opposing views were supported by Joe McGuire, vice president of the Niagara Builders Association.

"The town has the necessary tools to protect trees," he said, adding that the resolution affects all property owners.

He wondered if residents would even be aware that removing a failing tree from a property would bring a $5,000 fine. McGuire told the board that by

moving forward on the tree ordinance resolution, they were lacking in judgement.

In other business, the board passed two resolutions to impose term limits on committees and boards. The resolutions are subject to a public hearing and adoption of a local law.

Council Member Dan Ward presented a resolution requesting members on town committees, including the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board, be limited to one term. For the Planning Board the term is seven years, according to New York State law and five years for the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The resolution passed. In addition, a resolution calling for a public hearing on term limits of Town Board members was approved. If adopted, the new local law would limit a board member to two consecutive four-year terms.

A public hearing was set for Aug. 12 to receive input on the resolution.

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