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Tree preservation a problem in Highland

November 2, 2011

Last week, the Town of Highland Town Hall was filled with a large number of residents who took time from their busy lives to communicate their thoughts on the proposed revised comprehensive plan.

The presented plan had numerous typographical errors, mislabeled geographical locations and a Tree Preservation Ordinance that severely restricted, if not remove the rights, of citizens. The chair of the committee, Carol Roig, assured the residents that the plan represented the needs of the town and all citizens, but that was quickly refuted by citizens.

Citizen after citizen stood expressing their displeasure with the Tree Preservation Ordinance adapted from the Town of Penfield, NJ; however, that town does not exist.

According to the 2010 census the Town of Penfield is actually in NY, and has a population of over 36,000 people—962 people per square mile. The town is completely developed, with miles and miles of sidewalks and housing developments. This town doesn’t come close to being similar to the Town of Highland. How could the committee chairwoman and members even consider utilizing that town as a role model?

After hearing the public’s displeasure with the Tree Preservation Ordinance, the supervisor quickly interjected that the inclusion of the ordinance was a mistake. The supervisor told the public in attendance the committee, “never discussed the Tree Preservation Ordinance” the ordinance was never supposed to be included in the plan. If it was a mistake, why was the ordinance included in the table of contents?

How could the plan be declared appropriate and accurate by chairwoman Roig, committee member Jim Gutekunst, and the town supervisor before the public hearing suddenly be declared inappropriate and a mistake during the public hearing? I, for one, question who the committee represents.

Tina Palacek
Eldred, NY

Tina's "Take" is a Problem In Highland

The draft revised Comprehensive Management Plan for the Town of Highland includes a suggestion that the Town consider a Heritage Tree ordinance, which would give willing property owners the opportunity to designate specific trees or stands of trees as worthy of recognition and protection by virtue of their size, age, rarity, ecological value or documented historical significance. Such designation might contribute to tourism, create opportunities to educate visitors and residents about the importance of responsible forestry practices, and give property owners access to grants and other assistance to save trees attacked by invasive pests such as the wooly adelgid (which is decimating Eastern hemlock forests) and the emerald ash borer – thereby helping to preserve the diversity of our forest resources.

Unfortunately, the release of the first draft for public review coincides with our local elections. One candidate, Tina Palacek, has chosen to attack her opponents through the comprehensive plan by misleading the public about the intentions and potential positive results of the suggested heritage tree ordinance. Her objections seem to boil down to the inclusion in the appendix of the comp plan a sample ordinance that, by unanimous agreement, has since been removed from the document. From this she attempts to extrapolate, inaccurately, that the task force never discussed the suggestion of a heritage tree ordinance. As a result of this effort to score cheap political points, the community has had no opportunity to discuss the actual content or potential merit of a heritage tree ordinance, or the process by which the citizens of Highland would create the criteria for heritage designation.

This is a disservice to the community, which might otherwise have the opportunity to consider the actual merits of the suggestions outlined in the plan, and to the task force members whose intentions and methodology have been unfairly attacked. Ultimately, it reveals an almost total ignorance of the genuine hard work and spirit of cooperation that goes into a task of this scope and importance. Residents of Highland should ask themselves whether deception and divisiveness – clear marks of a lack of integrity - are the qualities they desire in a town council member.

John and Debra Conway
Barryville, New York
(Members of the Town of Highland Comprehensive Management Plan Rewrite Task Force)