In Your Opinion: Don’t Use Public Money To Plant Trees On Private Land

By Arnold W. Schmidt

The Franklin Township Shade Tree Replacement Ordinance, Chapter 222-5.3.B states, “If placement of all replacement trees on the removal site plan proves to be impractical, in lieu of replanting trees on the removal site, the applicant shall have the option of planting replacement trees of types selected by the Shade Tree Commission (STC) from the approved list of trees as established by it at an off-site location chosen by the Township in consultation with the STC.  Such off-site locations shall be public property and rights-of-way, including but not limited to public parks, public schools, and public buildings.”  

In the Franklin Reporter & Advocate’s June 8, 2023, article, Vince Dominach, the Township’s Director of Economic Development, is quoted as saying “there is a way that the Council could allow the money to be used to the proposed purpose.”

The purpose currently being discussed is about the proposal to plant trees on private Canal Walk property in lieu of planting trees on the proposed B9 warehouse property at the corner of Schoolhouse and Mettlers Roads.  Mr. Dominach is quoted as stating, “What that would require is a developer’s agreement that the Township Council would have to approve.” “We just can’t take the money from a fund…(but) we can as part of a developer’s agreement say, whatever amount was supposed to have been spent on the trees when we come to a number, we could say that that money can go towards the planting of trees someplace else.” 

Mr. Dominach is further quoted as stating that the money is, “only required to go into the tree fund unless Council has a developer’s agreement that changes that.  It happens millions of times.” I’m guessing that last sentence is a bit of hyperbole.

Mr. Dominach may be correct that the Council would have to approve, as part of a developer’s agreement, the money that was supposed to be spent on trees could go towards planting trees someplace else.  However, in my approximately 15 years on the STC I don’t recall the Council ever coming to the Commission to determine, as stated in the Ordinance, “… an off-site location chosen by the Township in consultation with the STC.”  Much less to use this public money to plant trees on private property which obviously is in direct opposition to what the Ordinance says about where trees can be planted at off-site locations, “… public property and rights-of-way, including but not limited to public parks, public schools, and public buildings.”  There is no allowance, reference, or tolerance for planting on private property.

In part, the purpose of the STC is, as noted on the Township website, to “… promote the conservation and stewardship of trees throughout the Township by advising township officials regarding planting, care and maintenance of trees on township owned lands.” 

All STC members are appointed by the Township Manager.  Even though the STC is “just” advisory, the Ordinance specifically states decisions like those discussed above are supposed to be made “by the township in consultation with the STC”.  In this case, as stated by Mr. Dominach, the Township representation is the Council. 

I would hope that during this consultation discussion, if these two bodies disagree on where to plant trees, the determining factor would be precisely what the ordinance says.  That means not using public funds to plant trees on private properties.

Your Thoughts


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