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Petition Expresses Development Concerns

May 23 meeting to address evaluating village code

A petition is currently circulating throughout East Hills, one that expresses concern about residential development and the loss of what it calls “numerous” healthy trees.

East Hills resident Richard Brummel is circulating the petition. Brummel told The Roslyn News that the representation of like-minded residents at a recent public hearing on the village’s tree laws inspired him to start up the petition. He added that up to four-dozen signatures were secured after several hours canvassing over a recent weekend.

The petition addresses common concerns that have been voiced at recent public hearings on residential development.

“Real estate developers and new owners are rampaging through our community,” the petition claims.

“We want the laws to be re-written to prevent all removals except where trees are unquestionably unhealthy and pose a safety risk, and to steeply increase fines for violations,” it continues.

“Real estate speculation has caused our streets to become construction zones for months on end, and is ripping apart the neighborhood character of our streets despite rules that are supposed to protect neighborhood character,” the petition adds, referring to village building laws.

The petition, Brummel said, also outlines certain policies and reforms. It asks that the village require more replacement trees, close loopholes in law, institute a moratorium until reforms are in place, launch “an urgent replanting program” and generate annual reports regarding tree resources.

Reforms that the petition seeks include a reduction in allowed square footage of houses, an increase in setbacks, the imposition of time limits on construction activities, noise and emissions rules for equipment and later starting time for construction.

“We hope such changes will reduce the incentive to demolish and rebuild homes and instead encourage renovation to maintain our neighborhood character, reduce construction activity, and to conserve natural resources,” the petition states.

The Village’s Response

“The board and I are appreciative to all our concerned residents who share their views and suggestions on how we can add even greater reforms to our comprehensive laws governing trees,” said East Hills Mayor Michael R. Koblenz in response to the petition. 

“We are also grateful to our residents who serve on the Architectural Review Board, administer the provisions and have now added their recommendations for change. After a public hearing, we received many valuable suggestions, which are now being reviewed and considered. The proposed changes will also be analyzed by a new arborist who will be retained to evaluate trees. Local laws, after a short number of years, often need to also be reconsidered and revised. To that effect, we will also be holding a hearing on the building and zoning laws on Wednesday, May 23 at 8 p.m. to analyze and evaluate these provisions of our code. It is a valuable process.”

Brummel also told The Roslyn News that he knows not “all residents” agree with the positions outlined in the petition, but he said in this time of “global ecological crisis,” village leaders should embrace the support of a segment of the local population and listen to their concerns.

For instance, a handful of residents, Brummel said, only chose to agree with one of the two issues presented – tree laws and building restrictions – by initialing only one of two columns offered. A second simplified version of the petition has been distributed to volunteers and is being circulated. 

At the April 30 meeting, Mayor Koblenz said that the village has formed a special committee to re-consider the village building laws. The petition, Brummel added, asks that all meetings of the committee be announced and open to the public.

The petition also asks that a promised public hearing on village building be held “prior to the committee’s issuing its report(s)” in order to “incorporate residents’ concerns” in its work.

Brummel said he plans to submit the petition as part of the official record of the recent public hearing, which continued to receive comments for two weeks, but he said he would continue to seek signatures as time permits.