Despite the objections of two township council members, Montclair finally approved an ordinance Tuesday night designed to preserve the town's shade trees.
Under the ordinance, Montclair residents will need a $15 permit to cut down any tree greater than eight inches in diameter. Residents will have to hire licensed contractors—who must register with the township at a cost of $75—to remove their trees.
In addition, residents removing a tree will have to replace it with a new tree, one that is a native species or a species suited to urban environments. In lieu of replacing a tree, a contribution of $250 must be paid to a Tree Fund.
The township's forester, Stephen Schuckman, will be asked to prepare and publish on the municipal website—and annually review—a suitable species list for replacement trees.
Fees will be waived in cases where trees are diseased or hazardous, or when an applicant is suffering from financial hardship.
Council members Rich Murnick and Roger Terry both voted against the measure, which some have criticized as being too intrusive.
"I have a problem with government telling people what to do on their own property," Terry said.
But Mayor Jerry Fried said that the measure will not impose a heavy burden on taxpayers and that it's a way to encourage more planting.
"This is a step that will move us in the right direction," he said.
Supporters also argued that the ordinance will open the door to a variety of grants for the township.
"I think it would be hard to find a tree ordinance less intrusive than this one," said Councilor Nick Lewis.
To see the ordinance, go here. Scroll down to "E" under ordinances on second reading.
Meanwhile, an organization called RePLANT Montclair has formed and is also designed to encourage more planting in town.