Woodstock’s tree committee sought Town Board backing for planting and replacing trees within the town’s main business district. “One of the purposes of this discussion was to again publicize the fact that businesses, historically and well-documented, increase their business by planting trees in front of their business,” Tree Committee Chair Michael Veitch said at the regular Town Board meeting September 14.
“There’s a certain mindset we’ve run into here in town where some business owners who should have trees in front of their businesses claim that the tree will hurt business,” he said. “People won’t see their sign or something along those lines, where in fact, studies have shown just the exact opposite,” Veitch added. “When a tree stands in front of a business, our eyes are drawn, believe it or not, to the tree.”
Veitch proposed what he called a “plant-out” of trees within the hamlet area through to Bearsville and on Route 375 and Rock City Road. “These are the areas where the trees are regulated by town law and we’ve lost a lot of the big ones just in the seven, eight years that the tree committee has been active here, Veitch said.
He added the committee generally has had good luck, but that it encountered problems with certain businesses. “It can only add not only to the beauty, but also to the economy, the environment and the habitat. There are just so many reasons to have more trees,” Veitch said.
He asked the Town Board for $1000 in next year’s budget for tree planting or stump removal.
Tree Committee member Gay Leonhardt asked the town to “step up to the plate” when it comes to protected trees. She said there has been an issue for years with Cumberland Farms and that there are neglected trees on town property.
“We really need something from the building department or whatever, that is going to back [us] up when we go to a commercial property and say, ‘You’re messing up, you’re killing this tree.’ And they say, oh, whatever, and they kill the tree,” Leonhardt said. “It’s very hard to present to Cumberland Farms or other businesses when they know we’re not going to have any teeth.”
Tree Committee Member Cindy Muro said the current tree law doesn’t sufficiently protect trees when they are first planted, which makes it difficult to secure grants. “They said, well, what if we give you $10,000 to plant 3-inch caliper trees. And the law says it only protects trees that are 8 inches or more. It’s a long time that they’re not protected,” Muro said.
Councilman Richard Heppner suggested amending the tree law to change the minimum diameter that is protected. Supervisor Bill McKenna said he’d like to have more information about what is deficient in the law.
In the meantime, the Tree Committee is conducting a study to develop its “plant-out,” and Veitch hopes the town will enforce the tree law so more trees don’t die.
A free tree is welcome
“Our experience so far has been for the most part that the store owners are okay with a tree as long as they don’t have to pay for it. A free tree is welcome most of the time,” Veitch said. “We have a couple of store owners that that don’t want any trees. They still think that the tree is going to block their sign or something just ridiculous.”
Councilman Reggie Earls asked who pays for the tree’s upkeep or replacement if necessary.
“Under the tree law in the town of Woodstock, that tree, if it’s within a certain parameter, which is 20 feet from the center of the road, and it’s over a certain diameter, the property owner is legally responsible for that tree,” Veitch answered. “If they kill the tree, they’re liable for a $1000 fine. We’ve had situations just since the tree committee has been going where trees have literally been killed.”