Environmental Commission, resident discuss application
HAMMONTON—The Hammonton Environmental Commission had a lengthy conversation with a member of the public about their tree removal application during their meeting on Nov. 8 at town hall.
Ed Overdevest of Waterfront Way came in front of the Commission to discuss his tree removal application. His application stated he wanted to remove 35 trees around his property.
The Commission had doubts about approving all 35 trees at one time. Some members believed that some of the listed trees were perfectly healthy with no need to be removed.
The discussion with Overdevest lasted nearly an hour before coming to a solution.
Overdevest presented the board with a packet containing photos of his property, his businesses and former properties he had owned. This was to demonstrate to the Commission that Overdevest was responsible with the trees he decided to remove. He had a separate application approved by the Commission and was required to replace at least five trees.
Overdevest planted 21 trees, 16 more than was required by the Commission. This showed the Commission he wasn’t removing trees just for the sake of removing them.
The Commission suggested a joint visit to Overdevest’s property to go through the trees and have a discussion of why each tree should either stay up or be removed. Overdevest did not seem thrilled at this suggestion.
“I would question whether each of you want that same scrutiny with anything that you were doing with your house or outside of your house. Would you want somebody at your house saying ‘yes do that’ or ‘no don’t do that’? It’s a philosophical question,” Overdevest said.
Environmental Commission Chairperson Dan Bachalis wanted to make it clear that the Commission are doing their best to be fair with their decisions.
“One of the purposes of this commission is actually to make those kinds of decisions established by the ordinance and so that is the kind of thing we’re tasked to do. And for us, generally, for me personally, it’s not just a philosophical issue,” Chairperson Dan Bachalis said. “It’s a very real, real-life issue, having submitted my property, personally, for scrutiny by this commission in the past and having had neighbors do the same, just very recently.”
After the lengthy discussion, the Commission made their decision. They decided to conditionally approve all of Overdevest’s trees to be removed on the condition that they can take a walk through the marked trees on Overdevest’s property with him and discuss why or why not the Commission believes the trees should be removed.
“We recently had an application to remove a lot of trees. Initially, the board was disinclined to approve. We went out, several of us spoke with the applicant about what she had in mind.
Such as additions to the house, to property changes, and driveways and things like that. We approved every tree. So sometimes the explanation is all that’s important,” Environmental Commission member Chris Bethmann said.
Both the Commission and Overdevest seemed pleased with the outcome of the decision.
After the discussion, the Commission moved on to other tree removal applications to vote on. Trees on Brynmaur Avenue, Basin Road, North Chew Road and Central Avenue were all approved for removal.
Bachalis went on to discuss his time at the New Jersey Shade Tree Federation annual conference. Bachalis, along with fellow Commission members Amy Menzel and Bethmann, attended the two day event.
“What they do is, they have two days of set sessions. General sessions and then they also have some individual workshops, broken down by a municipal track and licensed tree expert track,” Bachalis said. “They have something called core training, where they go over all the basics of trees and tree care, and they teach what shade tree commissions do for newbies, basically.”
Bachalis was proud to mention having a table at the conference displaying work from the third grade Arbor Day poster contest that was held earlier this year in town.
The meeting concluded with the Commission coming up with goals that they have in mind as a Commission for the year of 2024. Members were brainstorming ideas, most of which were about the tree ordinance.
The Hammonton Environmental Commission will have one more meeting this year on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at town hall.
This article was produced in collaboration with the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium and Rowan University.