How To Protect Berlin Trees Debated

BERLIN – Trees in Berlin need to be protected, the Berlin Planning Commission agrees, but discussions this week revealed that there is little concurrence on the method.

 “We definitely need some kind of tree thing where substantial trees can’t be cut,” said Newt Chandler, newly elected chair of the Berlin Planning Commission.

Guidelines, not a new law, are what is needed, he said.

Property owners wishing to cut down substantial trees could need a permit, the commission has suggested in the past.

“Some communities designate heritage trees,” said Commissioner Joe Hill. “Some communities specify minimum canopy requirements. Others set a goal for streetscaping.”

Strict requirements, like adding a tree to a parking lot for a certain number of parking spaces, are too burdensome, Chandler said.

“It’s too restrictive,” he said, adding, “I’m not saying it’s bad.”

Outgoing Commission Chair Pete Cosby said he would support something simple, unlike some of the extensive ordinance examples planning consultant Tim Bourcier provided.

“This is way too comprehensive for this town,” Cosby said, referring to the Miami-Dade County tree ordinance.

Older trees need to be protected, said Mayor Tom Cardinale, who attended the meeting.

“When you talk about taking down an old tree, that’s where I get really touchy,” Cardinale said.

Trees are also on the Berlin Park Commission’s mind, which will be giving away 375 trees to Berlin residents this spring.

“We’ve seen a lot of trees come down,” said Park Commission Chair Trish Dufendach.

Dufendach suggested setting up a tree registry to identify heritage, historic, and specimen trees.

“Make a booklet, and have tourists go and look at our trees,” Dufendach said. “I wish we had a staff to make it happen … We have a lot of great ideas and no staff.”

More trees need to be planted in some areas of town. The Flower St. sidewalk project has been the downfall of several trees on the street, which had to be cut down to allow the walkway to be built, Commissioner Phyllis Purnell said. The community will hold a tree planting later this year to replace some of the lost trees.

The commission also discussed minor changes to the site plan ordinance and the planned unit development ordinance. Cosby urged Bourcier to not worry too much about the ordinances and instead to get on with the new Comprehensive Plan.