20 Aug 2014
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Passionate Speakers Reject Government Control Of Niles Trees

Residents criticized the part of a proposed Niles tree ordinance that would prevent people from cutting down trees on private property without a permit.

Passionate Speakers Reject Government Control Of Niles Trees

Fired-up Niles residents came out in zero-degree weather Tuesday to ask the Niles village board, at its regular meeting, to vote against a proposed tree ordinance that could prevent residents from being able to cut down trees on private property.

The ordinance bars anyone in the village from planting what it describes as "nuisance" varieties of trees and shrubs, and also requires residents to obtain permits from the village forester before they can remove a tree. The forester can deny granting a permit based on certain conditions--even on private property.

Resident Joe Walsh declared the ordinance would give the village power to decide what to do with trees on residents' private property, and that such a provision violated residents' First Amendment rights. He noted that as trees get older, they might clog sewer pipes, break sidewalks or cause other problems, and that if it took 20 years to reestablish the green canopy over streets, then that would be an unavoidable consequence.

"I would urge you to incentivize rather than penalize," he said.

Similarly, Bob Zalesny, who described himself as a lifelong Niles resident, said he chose to live in Niles partly because no one intruded on his family's decisions. By contrast, his sister went to live in a gated community where gave up a certain amount of control, and was even told what color to paint her door.

"We have this proposed tree ordinance, which is going to tell me what kind of tree I can plant, and whether I can cut it down, on my private property. When I grew up in Niles, everything stopped at the sidewalk," he said. "I think you can get your point across without telling people what to do."

He concluded with, "I'd rather live in a free city than a Tree City."  

Tree City USA is a designation awarded by the Arbor Day Foundation to municipalities which meet certain standards; there are 3,400 Tree Cities in the United States, according to its website. 

Instead of proceeding with the scheduled vote on the ordinance, trustees decided to send it back to the Environmental Practices Committee for further development. That committee will meet Wednesday, Feb. 5 in the Niles Village Hall, in the small conference room behind the council chambers. Committee Chair and Trustee Rosemary Palicki invited all interested citizens to attend.

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