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Home Government I am Bill Lawyer and I Speak for the Community: Rye Needs...

I am Bill Lawyer and I Speak for the Community: Rye Needs To Protect Its Trees – Communities Have Rights Too

Rye Needs To Protect Its Trees – Communities Have Rights Too

By Bill Lawyer, Guest Columnist

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The Environmental Advocacy Group of Rye (EAGR) was founded in 2007 because a wide cross-section of Rye residents wanted to make our community a more healthy, safe place to live and raise families.  Its first meeting was held that summer, just a few months after the second of two huge floods felled hundreds of trees and caused serious damage to property all over the City. 

Right from the beginning, the message we got from the community is that trees are a great resource, but they need to be managed properly.  The first issue that EAGR raised was the use of leaflblowers in the spring and summer months.  Amendments to the existing ordinances were proposed and passed to have a seasonal ban for the sake of reducing pollution and noise. 

Then, in the winter of 2009, EAGR began to look more closely at the issue of trees.  A forum was held featuring presentations from Cornell Cooperative Extension tree experts, landscapers, and representatives of Con Ed.  We learned that, due to storms, the conversion of open space to impervious surfaces, and not planting “the right tree for the right place” trees were losing the ability to retain stormwater, prevent erosion, absorb carbon dioxide and lower summer temperatures. 

That year we also heard from Rye’s Planning Commission and Conservation Commission Advisory Council that loopholes in the existing tree ordinances were allowing people to cut down large numbers of trees without any community oversight.

By the fall we had determined that a combination of education and ordinance revision were needed to help utilize trees in ways that will provide for the health, safety and beauty of the city that we all love. 

In 2010 we began a long process or proposals, reviews, revisions, and new proposals.  This was done in cooperation with the City’s staff, the Council, and several tree companies operating in Rye and other communities.  We also looked at what other communities were going.  Meanwhile, more severe storms hit Rye, resulting in the loss of hundreds more trees. 

What we saw is that, with trees as with other issues, a line has to be drawn between individual property rights and the rights of the community as a whole.  Rye, along with communities all over the United States, has determined that they have the right, through zoning laws, health laws, safety laws and other ordinances, to tell property owners that there are limits to what they can and cannot do. 

This is not a case of “big government” stepping on defenseless homeowners – it’s a process of the community working together to decide what’s best for the common good. EAGR got the community’s message loud and clear: we must plug the loopholes and encourage planting the right trees for the right place. 

EAGR welcomes anyone in Rye who sincerely wants to help promote trees in Rye to contact us.  Since 2009 we’ve been encouraging everyone to give us their thoughts and suggestions. 


  1. Mr. Lawyer –

    I fundamentally disagree. This IS a case of government abusing its power to take away property rights of the individual, and it is being driven to do so by a very small minority. Ms. Grieco stated that “over 137” signatures were obtained in support of this. That’s less than 1% of the population in Rye. Do you really believe that’s an example of the community working together?
    What EAGR has failed to address is the very real cost to the property owners, both in terms of increased property maintenance costs and the required increase in taxes to cover additional servicing and enforcement, as well as litigation costs.

  2. I agree, Matt. The proposed legislation takes a clear-cutting approach to a limited problem. The proposed law is too broad. And pointing to what other communities have done does not make the proposal correct. It is like saying that we should follow the lead of others even if they’re going in the wrong direction.

  3. Mr Lawyer : Come back when you have 2500 signatures , would ya ? 137 signatures is < 1% of Rye population . And who will be the certified arborist to make the professional call if a tree is healthy or not ? The $25 fee will not cover 20% of the cost of hiring people to run this never mind the legal bills that will spike from property owners denied their rights by people like you who want to impose YOUR vison of what their private propertry should look like . And we will be sure to replay this if/when a Rye resident is denied their right to remove a tree and it ( or a limb ) falls and harms them or their children . You sound like Bloomberg in NY wanting to impose YOUR view how others should live . Control sizes of drinks . Now today they want to control who drinks milk and popcorn too . You folks blew it the second this went from trying to control developers looking to clear cut a property to build a McMansion ( not a bad idea ) to literally trying to jam your vison of Rye down every citizen's throat . You speak for the " community "? Ha


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