The Triangle, The Trees, and the Law

| 133 Comments

The case of the downed evergreens at the horse trough triangle continues as Borough Attorney David Frizell's findings are made public. In his opinion, after an extensive review, the Shade Tree Commission has jurisdiction over the property in question and has the right to prosecute the offenders.  The Woodwild Park Association members who defiantly cut down the two evergreens could face fines of up to $1,000 or 90 days of imprisonment or community service.  Each tree could be looked at as a separate incident. 

Legal fees for 20 hours of billable time plus fees for the professional services of a local land surveyor are now due. 

Attorney Frizell's Letter to the Mayor 

February 13th Update:

To round-out the story, attached please find copies of three letters sent from Woodwild Park Association to the mayor and council.  They are posted on the Woodwild Park website.

December 15th letter   January 16th letter   February 13th letter

133 Comments

And the funny thing is the democrats (the party, not the people) have lost 3 local seats to those a**holes. Why do you think that is in a town full of democrats?

Why doesn’t the council just vote on the penalty for this heinous crime and this will put an end to this silly situation so the taxpayers of Metuchen don’t have to foot the bill. Then the mayor can cast the deciding vote the way he always does. He will flip a coin and while it is in the air he shouts “Heads I win…Tails you lose” and its over. I suggest they do it sooner rather than later.

wow, knew their were lots of a**holes in my town but these jokers at the WPA and their Republican syncophants take the cake.

Dictatorship alive and well in Metuchen.

I feel sorry for the person that wrote that ordinance. Breast height? These were not that big of trees, were they? Maybe B Cups?

"No person shall, without a written permit from the Shade Tree Commission, cut, break, climb with spikes, injure or remove any living tree"

Well, was an autopsy done on the cut down trees to determine cause of death?

It's very disturbing to read all of these comments. The solution is very simple. Bring back Ed O'Brien. He will order a study...then a town meeting....then a closed door private meeting...then a traffic study....repeat 3 times over the next 5 years. No better yet why don't we form a Posse. Everyone grab their torches and head to Tommy's Pond at midnight and we can rustle up the guilty tree bandits. I wonder if George Washington needed the Shady Tree Commission's approval? He fessed up as well...I wonder what his punishment was? Golly! Nothing like a good Posse.

Thank you Al Gore for inventing the internet!

Will this ever end?

Here's the state statute, which says who has jurisdiction. Who writes this stuff?

Note that the Metuchen ordinance posted above does not provide for the "replacement assessment" permitted in section b.


NJS 40:64-12. Penalty; jurisdiction of courts; copy of ordinance as evidence.

a. The [Shade Tree] commission may prescribe a fine for the violation of each of its ordinances in an amount not exceeding $1500.00 for each violation, and the courts which now or hereafter shall have jurisdiction over actions for the violation of ordinances of the municipality in which the commission has been or shall be appointed shall have jurisdiction in actions for the violation of such ordinances as the commission shall enact.

The ordinances shall be enforced by like proceedings and process and the practice for the enforcement thereof shall be the same as that provided by law for the enforcement of the ordinances of the municipality in which the commission exists.

The officers authorized by law to serve and execute process in the aforementioned courts shall be the officers to serve and execute any process issued out of any court under this chapter.

A copy of any ordinance of the commission, certified to under the hand of its secretary, or chairman shall be received in any court of this State as full and legal proof of the existence of the ordinance, and that all requirements of law in relation to the ordaining, publishing and making of the same, so as to make it legal and binding, have been complied with, unless the contrary be shown.

b. In addition to the penalties authorized by subsection a. of this section, the commission may require a person who removes or otherwise destroys a tree in violation of a municipal ordinance to pay a replacement assessment to the municipality. The replacement assessment shall be the value of the tree as determined by the appraisal of a trained forester or Certified Tree Expert retained by the commission for that purpose. In lieu of an appraisal, the commission may adopt a formula and schedule based upon the number of square inches contained in a cross section of the trunk of the tree multiplied by a predetermined value per square inch, not to exceed $27.00 per square inch. The square inch cross section shall be calculated from the diameter at breast height and, if there is a multiple stem tree, then each trunk shall be measured and an average shall be determined for the tree. For the purposes of this section, "diameter at breast height" shall mean the diameter of the tree taken at a point 4-1/2 feet above ground level. The commission shall modify the value of the tree based upon its species variety, location and its condition at the time of removal or destruction.

Here's the section of the Borough Code that talks about penalties, but it doesn't specify who the enforcing entity is.

§ 181-1. Disturbance of trees.

No person shall, without a written permit from the Shade Tree Commission, cut, break, climb with spikes, injure or remove any living tree in a public highway or injure, misuse or remove any device placed to protect such tree.

§ 181-9. Violations and penalties. EN

Any person or corporation violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished as provided in Chapter 1, General Provisions, Article 1.

§ 1-2. General penalty. [Amended 5-17-1982 by Ord. No. 82-15]

A.Except as hereinafter provided, whenever in this Code or in any other ordinance of the borough or in any rule, regulation or order promulgated pursuant to such Code or other ordinance of the borough any act is prohibited or is made or declared to be unlawful or an offense or a misdemeanor, or whenever in such Code or in such other borough ordinance, rule, regulation or order the doing of any act is required or the failure to do any act is declared to be unlawful, where no specific penalty is provided therefor, the violation of any such provision of this Code or of any other ordinance of the borough or of any rule, regulation or order promulgated pursuant to such Code or other borough ordinance shall be punished by one or more of the following: a fine not exceeding $1,000, imprisonment for a period of not exceeding 90 days or a period of community service not exceeding 90 days. (N.J.S.A. 40:49-5) EN

I have read the Borough Code. The powers of the Shade Tree Commission are as follows:
§ 10-6. Powers.

The Shade Tree Commission organized under this article shall have power to:
A. Exercise full and exclusive control over the regulation, planting and care of shade and ornamental trees and shrubbery now located, or which may hereafter be planted in any public highway, park or parkway, except such as are excluded pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:64-1, in the borough, including the planting, trimming, spraying, care and protection thereof.

B. Regulate and control the use of the ground surrounding the same, so far as may be necessary for their proper growth, care and protection.
C. Move or require the removal of any tree, or part thereof, dangerous to public safety.
D. Care for and control such parks and parkways; encourage arboriculture; make, alter, amend and repeal, in the manner prescribed for the passage, alteration, amendment and repeal of ordinances by the governing body of the borough, any and all ordinances necessary or proper for carrying out the provisions hereof.
E. Administer treatment to, or remove, any tree situated upon private property which is believed to harbor a disease or insects readily communicable to neighboring healthy trees in the care of the borough, and enter upon private property for that purpose, with the consent of the owner thereof, provided that the suspected condition is first confirmed by certificate issued by or on behalf of the State Department of Agriculture.

I don't see anything listed that gives Shade Tree the power to levy a fine against any person or entity.

As far as I am concerned firing the auditor is a prime example of “Business as Usual.” I never knew that “All those in favor say Aye all those opposed motioned carried” was one sentence. This issue is not going to go away and will most likely cost someone their seat in November…….however……..if the Shade Tree Commission decides to fine someone over this ridicules situation then I smell trouble. I believe trees drop without all the necessary approvals from time to time and I believe that friends of certain people do get preferential treatment possibly due to party affiliations and maybe even to friends. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Live by the sword…die by the sword. (Anyone have any other pertinent sayings.) In other words someone out there must know where the bodies are buried and it could be quite embarrassing for a prominent individual to be caught up in a tangled web. This could all be hypothetical. This is one person’s opinion not directed at anyone in particular nor any particular political party.BUT….You never know!

Thank you Al Gore for inventing the Internet!!!

If you cut down a tree on your property you would not be fined. The Park Association removed trees from what they believed was their own property.

I would be interested to know when or if anyone has ever been fined under the Shade Tree Ordinance.

Also, no "two citizens" were "directly responsible." The trees were removed by a tree service hired by the Park Association.

Personally, I don't care about the trees, but I do care how the town government is being run.

Firing an auditor without the knowledge of 50% of the town council? Holding a public meeting and "debating" the issue when in fact the issue had already been decided?

When will politicians get it through their skulls that the town has asked for change by electing 3 republicans? They continue to act like they always have.

Its not like Metuchen is a republican hotbed, but they were fed up with the way the town is run. Too bad the mayor and the 3 remaining councilmen have not learned that. Guess we have to get rid of one more of them. Funny thing is, they have asked for this to happen.

I think Mayor and Council have being doing that from the start. They have been made the scape goats D&R's for for people's anger. The neighbors are riled as well they should be. The issue really is for many how can they get away with that (cutting a tree) and I can not. Face it you cut down a tree and you will get fined. This is a sticky wicket. First you gotta determine ownership once and for all and then you negotiate. If the two citizens directly responsible channeled the arguments differently we would not be having these discussions.

There are also some registered Democrats who don't like business as usual. Strange, but we though Mayor Vahalla was going to change that.

Let's all be realistic here. This is not a conflict between the Democrat's and the Republicans. This is a conflict between a business as usual administration and a growing movement of people many of which are independent voters like myself who are tired watching meetings on TV with predetermined outcomes. There is no debate and public opinions and voices merely satisfy requirements. No one is questioning the honesty, integrity and devotion of the council and mayor of our town. I believe there is one agenda and it is being forced upon the people of Metuchen. Let’s face it being a council member can be a thankless job and no one is going to earn a living becoming one, however everyone there has chosen to be one and serve everyone in towns best interest. That is why debates, discussions and the opinions of everyone willing to voice one are necessary and need to occur and be taken seriously. Meeting after meeting…study after study….public forum after public forum are just means of wasting tax dollars while procrastinating to the point where everyone gives up and the original agenda gets put in place. The time for change is now and anyone not willing to take every voice into consideration should step down. Mr. mayor and honorable council persons, please give up this ridicules fight against the people who removed a couple of trees which in my opinion allows drivers to see oncoming traffic on 27 and improves safety. This is the type of story if the media is having a slow day could make our town look like a joke.

Seems to me there are two issues, one is the management of our towns money, which seems to be a problem.

The second issue is the fact that the old auditor was fired without the knowledge of half the town council and then a public debate was held about it. Shouldn't that have been done in a different order?

Have all our "public" debates just been shams? Decisions made and then a town council happens where they talk about it, only to vote on it in a pre-ordained manner?

I hope the stop and shop meetings were not this way, if so, that is a sad thing. It sure isn't democracy.

Can't we all just get along? Why not build a campfire on the triangle using the trees that were cut down and we can sing Kumbaya.

The only ones doing a piss poor job are the CFO and Administrator. Auditor didn't over pay the school board. Auditor isn't the one who doesn't understand basic accounting principles. Auditor didn't double pay for the fire truck. Auditor doesn't take 2 months to close the books on a year end. Auditor didn't create a structural deficit in the operating budget. Auditor isn't the one who lacks systemic or procedural controls. Let's be honest with everyone, E&Y had findings of incompetence with the CFO for several years running. Each year during managerial review with the Mayor and Administrator, they would promise to address the problem in exchange for the comments being dropped from the final version of the audit. Finally in 2008 when things really hit the fan, it became impossible for the auditor to keep quiet. As is customary for auditor's talking out of line, they were summarily dismissed.

Wrong

There is a new auditor

from the outside

who costs much less than the old auditor who did a piss poor job

Seems like you just have an agenda that you want to push

And what the heck does this mean?

"Since the CFO now has tenure due to anyone adequately dealing with the problem over the years"


Maybe there is more to the story than just the auditor? Maybe E&Y should have been kept so that they could help the Borough remove the CFO and Administrator. Since the CFO now has tenure due to anyone adequately dealing with the problem over the years, it will take an act of the NJ DCA to remove her unless she chooses to leave herself. Maybe the Borough Administrator needs to go too and he's been covering for the CFO for years. I am not sure those are things the Councilman is allowed to speak of openly in the meeting but was trying to work towards. It's quite possible that all 3 needed to go but the Council should have done things in the proper order, first use the auditor to document the problems, then clean house. Now the Borough has no one from the outside looking in objectively.

Not everyone is good on TV.

yeah, right

What I find disturbing is that there were actually folks who didn't want to fire that auditor. I know its all about politics, but jeez, that guy was terrible


The issue is that E&Y was fired with only half the council being in on the decision.

Yes, big conspiracy indeed! I would have fired that jerk from E&Y after that disgraceful performace at the council meeting a few months back. Looked like Councilman Morrison wanted to go smack the guy, that was priceless! Glad they got fired, thier audits looked like they were written by a first year college student.

Ummm, no, the vote did not fire the auditor, the vote hired a new one. The E&Y firm had already been fired.

Nah, its a big conspiracy

A big coverup

right.....


Only one council member voted against firing the auditor. And he seemed pretty clueless on the whole issue.

Yeah, nice smokescreen. You think its right that an auditor is fired with half the council even being aware?

You think its fine that there is a sham public debate over the topic, even though the outcome had already been decided and acted on?

Is that how you view democracy? Theatrics to cover for decisions by the few?

tinfoil hat getting tighter

trees are a big issue because these two idiots decided to do what they wanted and not follow the same rules everyone else has to follow

but somehow it is the Democrats fault

bizarre....

You think it is by mistake that the trees are such a big issue in town? Why do you think that is the case?

What else happened at about the same time? Hmmm, money going into wrong accounts, the firing of an auditor.

Lets see, the auditor was fired without the full knowledge of the town council, is that right? This letter was posted without the full knowledge of the council, is that right?

Metuchen, just because 3 republicans sit on the council, doesn't mean anything has changed. Things are still done in back rooms and decided by very few people.

Wow, the wingnuts sure have their panties in a bunch.

Threats against Obama, threats against town councilman.

Yikes

Ain't that the TRUTH!

Sensitive Democrats, the truth hurts. They can dish it out, but can't take it. Bunch of arrogant bullies.

That tracks. Forums are not free for alls. They have rules.

If politicians don't want their names being used they shouldn't go into politics. Politicians and other public figures do not have the same rights to privacy as everyone else. If councilmembers are asking to have their names deleted from the forum, they are not fulfilling their oaths to uphold the constitution, as they are infringing on the free speech of the citizenry.

The politicians don't like their names being used on the Forum. I think the messages that were deleted called Dyas and Weber by name which according to their community rules is a reason someone can request deletion. Don't worry, we'll remember their names in November without the forum posts.

That seems plausible, if a stretch. But what is the explanation for censorship of questions about how much taxpayer money was spent by the Borough Attorney?

I think the writer is saying here censorship took place here because violence was suggested against specific individuals.

What are you talking about? A joke about a form of public punishment used in colonial times pales in comparison to your supposed "peaceful" post, which contains far more dangerous words.

Humor wears a thin veil. So an ounce of caution is worth a pound of cure. People are mad and mad about everything The economy, the government basic survival and the future of life in America at every level and then someone does something radical in your own back yard no less stirring everyone up. Telling someone to chill just does not work and in my experience causes greater anger & violence. Ever wonder why cops draw their weapons more then they did 40 years ago? Answer, the person on the other end has less senses of control then they did 40 years ago too Almost no respect for authority and a willingness to inflict pain. Today they call it acting out. So someone censoring does not surprise me. I would not want to give some idiot an idea. Talk to the police. A heck of a lot people own guns in Metuchen. If I were you I would be very respectful to your neighbor as we try to be. Do not give anybody a reason and love thy neighbor better then you love yourself. It has been two generations since large scale violence in New Jersey--now is not a good time and I for one want to keep it that way. Peaceful.

Interesting. Someone doesn't have a sense of humor. Rather humorous post today on nj.com about the town putting up a pillory on the triangle and having tree violators put there for punishment was deleted from the forum.

Also, some posts asking the same question that was asked in the 2/13 8:23PM post above were also removed. I guess citizens are not entitled to ask questions about foolish expenditures of borough funds?

bye bye Dyas, this will surely hurt. Very bad judgement.

Amen. I couldn't have said it better.

Who authorized the expenditure of $3000 in legal fees in order to determine if the Borough can impose a $2000 fine for trees that were going to be replaced all along? What are the new auditors going to say about that? How is this going to play in November?

Great idea...FRESH PERSPECTIVE!

Yeah, didn't the council say we should have fresh eyes every so often as a matter of policy?

It is not an elective office, however the Borough Attorney is appointed by the Mayor who is a democrat. That is why this matter appears to be very political in nature, mainly the retribution. The Borough Attorney has been around a long time, maybe it is time for a new set of eyes to look over the Borough's legal matters. Can't hurt and we might even save a few bucks.

It would appear it is the borough attorney. Last time I checked that was not an elective office.

The Borough is living in the dark ages when it comes to technology. Only recently did they even start to place things on the website. Still trying to acertain who is running the Borough Government. Anyone have any idea.

Yeah, I agree it's ridiculous. We shouldn't have to go down to boro hall to see Shade Tree Comission minutes prior to 2008 either, they should be on the web site.

This entire situation is ridiculous. They remove two trees from property they believed to be that of Woodwild Park Assoc. The Borough was not sure so they looked into it. After a title and survey check ,they believe that the prpoerty in question belongs to the Borough. The Shade Tree Commission sounds like they have way too much power. I can't believe that this matter can not be resolved. Its embarassing and is going to cost substantial money, for what to prove a point. Both sides need to sit down and rectify this.

You can ask the Borough to include that information in the directory of board and commission members that it publishes. Currently it just has their name, address, and the date their term expires.

http://www.metuchennj.org/2009-PUBLIC-DIRECTORY.pdf

Back to aggravation. Why do you or should you have to file an OPRA for someone to identify next to their name thier vocation such as licensed professional architect when serving as a member of a committee. It makes no sense.

Anyone can go down and file an OPRA request for the application filed by people appointed to Borough Boards and Commissions.

http://www.metuchennj.org/appointment_boards.html

I agree with your statement. "But if you are not one of those people on a thirty foot wide street with a fifty foot wide right of way, then the distance from the curb to your property line may be different." Why you are add it make it a sixty foot right of way too. Same thing applies.

So go back to the point. "Metuchen has a lot more exceptions then what we all believed. Which is why before you pull the trigger make sure you know what you are doing with a legal argument. To be germane, I do mean Triangle Park." I hope my neighbors learned their lesson.

Just to be clear, because a poster above seems to indicate the he or she thinks the right of way is the distance fom the centerline of the street:

The right of way width given on your survey or on the tax map is NOT the distance from the centerline of the street. The distance, most often 50 or 60 feet, is the width of the entire right of way. The distance from the centerline of the street to the edge of your property is only half of the right of way.

The majority of streets in town have a fifty foot right of way, with a paved street that is thirty feet wide, leaving ten feet of the right of way on each side of the street. That is why people used to say that the "general rule" was that the right of way ended ten feet from the curb. For many people, it does. But if you are not one of those people on a thirty foot wide street with a fifty foot wide right of way, then the distance from the curb to your property line may be different.

You're talking about two different things. The setback is a zoning requirement and has nothing to do with the width of the right of way. The front yard setback is the distance your house is supposed to be "set back" from the right of way, and depending on when your house was built the setback may have been different then than it is now. The setback is not part of the right of way.

You need to look at the tax map and the survey together if your survey does not indicate what the width of the right of way of your street is.

Then you need to measure the actual paved street, not including the curbs themselves.

Subtract the width of the paved street from the stated width of the ROW and then divide by two.

That result is the distance from the edge of the curb to your property line.

As an example, if the right of way is 60 feet and the paved street is forty feet wide, the right of way ends ten feet from the edge of the curb. If the ROW on your street is 60 feet and the paved street is only 30 feet wide, then the ROW ends 15 feet from your curb.

The distance on your survey should be drawn from your property line to the front wall of your house, not the edge of the curb to the front wall of your house. Unless, of course, you're on a really narow street and the edge of the curb coincides with the edge of the ROW.

In any event, whatever the currently required "front yard setback" is in your zoning district, it has nothing to do with where the edge of your property line is. If your house is really old, it is quite possible it was built right on the street line. Sometimes people did that in the hopes that it would stop the town from widening their street at a later date. There are even some cases where people built on the edge of the paved street, in a portion of the right of way, and later had to move their house.

Enlightening. I just looked at the tax map 60 foot ROW clearly spelled out with 16.7 from said point of house closest to curb on a 15 foot set back. Given that the Boro has my living room if they wanted it. Now, if you are telling me that I own the property under said street. I have a bridge to sell in Brooklyn. Metuchen has a lot more exceptions then what we all believed. Which is why before you pull the trigger make sure you know what you are doing with a legal argument. To be germane, I do mean Triangle Park.

I can also tell you how they got around the rules when they built the house many years ago. But I like my privacy. They were shrewd to make it happen. That does not remove the fact the ROW can be greater then the property line. While the Boro does respect that rule on trees around the house with the 10 foot line. I remain under no illusion that it is merely courtesy. I see nothing legally that would prevent them from doing something else in the future.

And yeah, you learn from each home never never again.

I'm not confusing property line with right of way. One defines the other.

Technically, most homeowners own the property under the road to the middle of the street and the public just has a right of way to cross it. (There are some exceptions, such as where widening may have been done on only one side, but that is the general rule.)

The way they draw deeds in New Jersey, the property line along the street on your deed coincides with the edge of the right of way on your street. The surveyor knows exactly what the width of the right of way is on each street. That is how they plot the point of beginning for your lot. The iron pins at each corner of the front of my house, and probably yours, delineate the boundary between our private property and the property that is subject to the right of way.

There is not set rule on how far back the property line is from the curb. It can be different on every street depending on the width of the right of way and the width of the paved street.

That is so true, safety is out they are obsessed with these trees and others. There are shade trees all over Metuchen that are obstructing views of motorists, ruining sidewalks,driveways ,cars ,houses, sewer lines. They are crazy tree huggers.

Go to court if you disagree. Based on the attorney's arguments the court will side with the Boro. Boro Property. End of story. The real crime was a failure many moons ago to research this matter out properly when it never was an issue. Too cheap causes problems in the long term. Should never do that with land. It is the people's property if in Boro hands. No side issues. Fix the land; replace the trees; codify the STC actions and be neighbors. Please lets not put trees in the middle of peoples livings rooms. Moral of the story make 100% sure you know what you are doing with a legal argument before you pull a trigger. Given who these citizens were I am still in shock over that. Wow.

Originally, the alleged "crime" was the fact that the trees were in the right of way. The Shade Tree Commission has jurisdiction on trees in the right-of way on Borough streets, but no on State highways, (such as State Highway Route 27). When the Borough found out that the trees were NOT in the right of way, they decided to claim the triangle as Borough property, which is the only way that they can save face. How about if they just apologize? What a disgrace that our tax dollars are being wasted on this nonsense.

Apologies for double post. Thought first one was lost. You are confusing property line with right of way. Two different things. Property line is ten feet from curb indicated by concrete/steel markers. Right of way is determined by center line of roadway. Sometimes the same. Sometimes not. On Grove it is 60 feet according to Dyas and Middlesex it is another distance. 60 feet on Grove is in the middle of some people's living rooms.

Good. You are right it is not rocket science. So tell where is his CV published? It apparently takes rocket science to publish the CV's of the STC members so the public knows who they are dealing with. I mean we assume the Boro Engineer is a real engineer? How do I know the STC Chairman is an architect? Apparently it takes rocket science also to publish the methodology for determining that list which I do have a copy of!

As to the Boro Ordnance. It may take rocket science to research out what the correct right of way is since the previously thought of right of way is not always ten feet from the curb was dispelled by our Boro Council President. If you listened to recent Boro council meetings you would have heard that right of way on some streets is greater then 60 feet from center line like on Middlesex and Grove. If that is correct that my friend puts the right of way smack dab in the middle of some peoples living rooms. While it proved a moot argument on Triangle. It still applies. It apparently takes Rocket Science to keep the general public informed and I have to ask will the agreement be, well--I am sorry sir for the property damage to your foundation but your living room sits smack dab in the middle of the right of way. So we are not responsible for damages. Have a nice day. God Forbid that ever happens. I am not making up that defense I have seen those kind of arguments in court. Defensive thought they might be. Sometimes they stick. Jersey is agrarian based law not corporate law.

If you have the list of trees you can google them for a picture. But under the current regime, you might not get to pick what they plant in front of your house. You might just come home one day and find they have plunked one down on your side of the sidewalk.

The width of the right of way for every street is on the tax map, which is at borough hall. It may also be on the survey you got when you bought your house, which may also state the distance between your house and the edge of your property, which would tell you where the right of way begins. Many properties have iron pins in the ground at the property corners, which you can find even with the kiddie version of a metal detector, which wuold also tell you where the right of way is. It isn't as hard to figure out as you might think.

Good. You are right it is not rocket science. So tell me--where are the STC members CV's published? I also have a copy of that tree list but not a copy of the the methodology for trees to be on that list and no pictures of what the trees look like. Where is that published? If it was published,someone would not be asking these questions. Your are right it is not rocket science.

As to where trees should be planted. Based on the Boro Council meeting of that night disclosed, I see that issue of right of way depends on the street you are on and not the previously thought ten feet from the curb. Part of the argument on Triangle was center line from Kings Highway or Middlesex Avenue. While it proved an erroneous thought on Triangle it applies everywhere else on Middlesex that I know of. In some cases right of way would sit darn well in the center of some people's living room based on what our Boro President stated during a recent council meeting. It does take rocket science to be organized. Let's get it organized.

The chair of the shade tree commission is a landscape architect. Landscape architects know about form and design and not necessarily about which trees will grow best in what type of soil. There is already a list of approved trees and a boro ordinance that states where they should be planted. It's not rocket science.

I heard the "study" was that one police officer went and looked at the trees and decided that you could see around them so they weren't a hazard. But, in order to see around them you had to pull into the shoulder of 27.

I have had the same experience as the other poster above. While I was sitting in the shoulder waiting to turn left onto 27 north, another car was waiting to turn left onto Rector from 27 south. A southbound car, probably speeding, went around the car waiting to turn onto Rector, and then had to swerve quickly to avoid my car. I thought they were going to hit me. I suppose if they had, we wouldn't even be having this conversation, because the trees would have been cut down after the accident. Must we always wait for an accident before we decide something is dangerous?

After this mess is over. I would like to see a review of how the Shade Tree Commission operates and what we as Boro residents want for policy. I am not so sure now that the current policy is what we all want. Times have changed. The policy has to become more realistic. Or, if it is realistic spell it out as opposed to verbalizing it. The STC should include individuals who are skilled experts in landscaping architecture. If not on there already. If a tree is not pretty and we certainly got a few of them get it on the replacement list. When you can do it is of course another thing. Obviously, money makes it a low ball issue right now. At least, get the policy right. If a tree is invading sewer lines and damaging private property foundations the Boro is responsible. I fall a deaf ear on Boro responses on this one. The usual view says it is the home owner responsible. While not always true, when you get a reasonable response or action it took way to much time and aggravation. If I have to unleash my lawyer,to prove otherwise, I really do not give a darn how much it costs. More law suits get started over this then I care to think about. This should stop right where it starts. When the it is caused by Boro property and it is now on your property it is a Boro hazard. Damage my foundation and I am going to litigate. Now that is worth going to court over. It should be avoided. I heard Cammarano alluding at one Boro meeting about a foundation on his home being damaged or imperiled by a tree. If that is a Boro Tree and on my property make my day. I am not going to cut I am going to litigate for removal and the not just the root. It is time for a fresh look.

The police performed a study?

How much money does it cost to have a cop step outside his car and look at the trees? Hell, put a box of doughnuts there and you might get the whole force out on site.

"These guys" didn't cut down the trees. A tree service hired by the Park Association cut down the trees. No one was going to use them as Christmas trees. For one thing, they're not suitable for Christmas trees, and for another, you could have bought two of the biggest trees Steve had for sale at Boro hardware for less than they paid the tree guy. As Dr. Primich stated on this blog, the cut tree branches were placed in the park as natural compost. You can keep repeating that story about using them as Christmas trees over and over, but it doesn't make it true.

The Shade Tree Commission does some good, and some not. Last year's Arbor Day plantings organized by Mrs. Hines, and their having a booth at the fair to educate people about things like proper mulching, are examples of some of the good. The chair of the shade tree commission authorizing trees to be planted in locations that violate the town's own shade tree standards and without regard for signs and wires, are examples of the not.

Would the tree huggers like to lynch 'em?

Trees don't invade sewer lines unless the sewer line is already broken and leaking.

Sorry, nice try but completely wrong as is your slam on the Shade Tree Commission, which is doing a fine job and should be commended rather than attacked by for partisan political reasons.

These guys cut the trees down in middle of winter after having been told no by the town, and got caught with the trees in their backyard. They were going to use as Christmas trees.

How pathetic, and yet it is somehow the STC's fault.

I think everyone is missing the point. These gentlemen asked the police department to perform a study on the trees and the sightline. The police decided that the trees were fine. Our grip is that these people asked for the study and decided to ignore it when the outcome was not in their favor. So now they should pay for ALL of the costs, and not just replace the trees.

So as important as these trees are, following the laws of our town are more important. And this group of people did not.

Are we talking about the wind outside or the wind we’ve been expending on this issue? (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Some might think the tree issue itself is too silly to spend so much time on but I think it’s a really interesting demonstration of town dynamics. We’re such a small town and when it comes down to it we value the same stuff. We chose to live here and like life here for many of the same reasons. But being that we’re so small and everything is so accessible, I get the impression that sometimes groups or individuals start thinking they have a bit more authority or ownership of policy and space than they probably should. The Shade Tree folks take such a hard line that safety and reason seems to take a back seat to their authority over our foliage. (I know a family living with a shade tree on the apron of their property, and that tree is big and old and has nasty roots that have totally invaded her sewer line. Once a year they spend a hefty sum having a plumber clean roots from the line and even still there is the occasional sewage back-up into her first floor bathroom. Once that terrible event coincided with Christmas Eve. That tree is a nuisance and needs to come down but they're afraid to pursue it lest the Shade Tree Secret Police make them feel they're somehow violating the character of our town). The triangle trees probably were a sight hazard and an impediment to the beauty of the trough. But, rather than go through the proper channels and garner enough support from the community to fix the problem, someone felt entitled enough to make a decision to snub the ruling on his or her own.

Both sides seem to hold some responsibility here. And local government doesn’t appear to have tried to promote reason, communication, and compromise. Seems to me the trees are the least of our problems.

These gentlemen "outed" themselves by appearing at the Boro Council meeting Dec. 15th, so a letter posted as a follow-up to the question of ownership and subsequent removal of trees really did not adversely affect these two individuals.

The lawyer will determine (after many billable hours) that it was an Act of God. Then we can prosecute God.

Will we waste taxpayer dollars investigating where this wind came from?

There is a tree down at tommys pond.Let the investigation begin!!!

And to think this one guy was a former Judge, disgraceful

Hey Judge, how's about following the rules?

or are they just for "other" people to follow.....

If you are so fascinated, I wonder why your research hasn't already been done, and why you haven't already requested all the documents that you believe are relevant, especially when you stated on NJ.com almost a month ago on 1/23/09 the following:

"I have researched the record FREE OF CHARGE"

Now, if you, as of January 23, 2009, had already researched the record, why hadn't you seen the document that you now say you are going to request a copy of? Don't answer that question, because it'll only be more spin from you. Instead, request all of the documents that you need and then report back to us as to your findings. I will bet $100 that you will disagree with Frizell, and will come up with some strained reading of the "record" in order to support and defend your FRIENDS.

Obviously, there are some who don't realize what I do for a living. I confess to being a "land title geek". I have examined and researched titles to land in both Middlesex and Union County for more years than I would like to admit. I find the issue as to who holds title to the Horse Trough Triangle fascinating. It's actually one of the most fascinating I have come across since the General Obadiah Herbert land dispute that went to court back in the 1970's. I don't smear, I research I examine, and at times I exhaust "the record" in order to help clean up title issues. This is what I do, the fact that this issue is in MY COMMUNITY makes it all the more important.

Of course Sardone is attacking the messenger, and suggesting that he is falsely describing the "Report of Title." She and her cohorts will do ANYTHING and smear ANYONE to achieve her goals of extricating her FRIENDS from legal trouble.

So you think the lawyer is wrong, and WPA does own the land?

Or are you just doing the attack the messenger schtick?

I want to see the actual "Report of Title" from General Land Abstract. Seems to me, this report is now within the public domain since it was mentioned in a letter that is posted on the Borough Web Site. I will be requesting an opportunity to VIEW this Title Report using an OPRA request. I wonder why our Borough Attorney did not attach this report to his letter since he attached Paul Berg's sketch showing the stumps.

If I did what they on my property. I would have been arrested and been given at least a $2,000 fine. I am not going to let anyone who violates process get away with that if I can not get away with it. High Taxes on schools? When did anyone last show up at a Board meetings and tell them what you think. The big money is in the Schools not the Boro. Franklin Square, I seem to recall a set ratio projected for school age population. Did anyone do a study to approve or disprove the projection? $624K mistake. Yeah, go hang the current CFO so that future ones hide the mistake out of fear of reprisal. Just like they do in the rest of Jersey.

My tax dollars at work....NOT!
What a waste of time and money!
The WPA did Metuchen a favor by cutting these trees down. Beside the fact that their intent was to plant new more appropriate trees so as not to block the historic horse trough and to beautify the triangle, they removed a traffic hazard. I recall a near miss when I was traveling south on 27. I signalled and slowed down to make a left on Rector St. A car travelling behind me went around me onto the shoulder. A car inching out of Oak Ave. to make a left onto 27 North was nearly hit. That car inching out of Oak Ave., onto the shoulder, had to do so to see around the trees.
Were we waiting for a fatal accident before addressing the issue? The WPA should be commended for being proactive and removing the hazard.
How about looking at the REAL issues plaguing this town instead of WASTING OUR TAX DOLLARS on this nonsense.....
*Missing $624,000...Let's replace the auditor who found the mistake...How about reprimanding the employee who made the error?... No, we'll just hire a new auditor to get a "FRESH PERSPECTIVE".
*Only 63% of MHS graduates go on to 4 year colleges... Look at the school taxes we pay. Look at what our superintendent's salary is in comparison to other larger districts, then look at their report cards in comparison to ours. ...How about some accountability?
*How about the new development? Don't try to tell me only working people with no children will move in there so as not to burden our school system. Oh wait...that's what they told us years ago about Franklin Square.
WAKE UP METUCHEN! You are wasting our tax dollars over 2 trees that NEEDED to be replaced. WPA paid to have the trees removed and will pay for the new trees and any other improvements to the triangle, therefore SAVING Metuchen tax dollars.
And no, I am not at all affiliated with WPA. I just call it like I see it....NONSENSE!!!
Let's drop this issue and move on.

You need 25% of registered voters signatures for a recall. Good luck.

19:27A-5. Recall petition; signatures required
5. A recall petition demanding that an election be held for the purpose of deciding whether an elected official shall be recalled from office shall be signed by a number of registered voters of the jurisdiction of the official sought to be recalled equal to at least 25% of the persons registered to vote in that jurisdiction on the date of the general election preceding the date on which the sponsors of the petition file a notice of intention pursuant to section 6 of this act. A recall petition shall be filed with the appropriate recall election official.

THE MAN AT THE TOP IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALLOWING THIS FIASCO - WHERE IS THE CAMPAIGN TO IMPEACH YOUR "MAYOR" ...? (And your borough attorney too...)

I'm not kissing any of them!

It is called Democracy. Go to Great Britain, Germany, France or any county in Africa. Things are the the same.

Yeah, and some thoughts are stupider than others, but rights go to idiots too, probably more so, because they can't protect themselves.

Review the title of this blog "Metuchen Matters". A place intended to express what is on peoples minds. Like or dislike--agree or disagree. I recall a Supreme Court Justice once writing that he may not agree with the thought but he will defend the right to state it. Never lose that value or we are not Americans.

36 posts on this topic? We must really live in a boring town. Its not like we have financial problems or anything interesting like that.

The Boro researched ownership. No one likes it go to court. Now that is a waste of money. The American court system will side with the Boro. Should have been done years ago. It would have been cheaper. Sometimes too cheap causes further problems. Excellent work by our attorney. Good thing this was not the "old Kings Highway" which was governed by the "Kings Law". Else you would be administering the "Kings Justice." A public stock! Rotten vegetables thrown. Make money off of that! Thank ye Almighty those days are gone. Don't miss the thought. The people in the WPA are fine neighbors and good citizens lesson learned. Now. let's fix the site and know ye all well not to trample on ye people's property.

Listen nobody has covered themselves in glory on this one. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do something. I like the suggestion of the Mayor getting the two parties together to remediate the situation and be done with it. Sounds like the offending parties were going to do that anyway. Lets not turn this into a turf contest. When there is a disproportionate response like this, its not just about trees. Somebody wants their ring kissed.

sorry. another thing. If the WPA took the two trees down, thinking that they own the triangle, then they were not intentionally trying to destroy borough property. Doesn't that have to be cleared up, I mean, the issue of ownership? Maybe there is more to that story also. Everyone needs their day to show what papers they have to support their cases?????Move this along already.

Yes, lets just let everyone do what they want. I know of people who have cut down trees in rights of way. For some reason folks don't always like big trees around either. I don't know the facts here but we need to be careful.

and sorry, I have to say something else....We have a Mayor. He is the top one IN CHARGE. I think now should be the time for him to step up and TAKE CHARGE. This matter should get resolved, if possible, before it continues in this fashion. Isn't that what we have an election for?????We need him NOW. before this gets much worse. Can't he push everyone to get together??????Why not????????Please before many more negative things are said all around.

The actual tree cutter was asked where the trees where, he said he was told to bring them to the Doctors house so they could be used as Christmas trees. Even the tree guy was puzzled by the request, most folks want everything hauled away when they pay someone to cut a tree. He was ready to throwthem in the chipper but delivered them to the Docs house instead.

You may not believe it, I agree nobody could be that stupid, but facts are facts whether we like them or not.

I have been reading all of these comments and have a couple of things to say. First of all, doesn't WPA have the right to defend themselves? Mr. Frizell has just said what he has to say naming names (btw) the two named are two of an entire group of families and a board of trustees, and not giving them the right to respond? Aren't there two sides to most stories????Also, I cannot imagine that Dr. Primach would need to cut down a tree to make it his christmas tree, COME ON. and the Judge has grown up in Metuchen and I hear loves this town more than life. I cannot picture the WPA to be criminals who intentionally would go and cause damage. I understand they were trying to IMPROVE on the triangle. As for who actually owns it, let that get sorted out properly. I just think this is out of hand now and everyone looks bad here. Let everyone get together and WORK IT OUT likes adults that all love this town. With all the other problems we are all having now in the economic world, this should be Metuchen's biggest problem. It is embarassing, I think. I have said my peace. Thank you

Good, they cost too much to enforce anyway, lets not enforce any....

There are plenty of town rules that are not enforced.

Personally, I see childish behavior on both sides. While not condoning it, if private citizens what to behave that way, fine, but our Government should not be resorting to that.

Isn't our legal system founded upon the premise of innocent until proven guilty? People go to court to fight traffic tickets. But you think the Park Association should pay two thousand dollars in fines without getting their day in court? Doesn't seem fair.

Lets just stop enforcing any town rules, they cost too much......

Strange, I don't see anything in the Shade Tree Ordinance about the alleged violator having to pay the Borough's legal fees.

This guy is a former Judge?

He should know better, shame on him for wasting our towns time and money

And then getting caught red handed and still fighting over it, be a man, pay the fine do the time and move on.

Wasn't Metuchen officially established in 1900? How come his letter says 1901?

According to Mr. Frizell's letter, the Shade Tree Commission is the proper enforcing authority, so I believe if we are to expend public dollars on the matter, the Shade Tree Commission has to file the complaint.

A private citizen can file certain complaints under New Jersey law, but then they are responsible for prosecuting the complaint at their own expense. Go down and try to file a complaint against a car that failed to yield to you in the crosswalk and you'll see what I mean.

Whether or not the tree cutting was in error IT SHOULD BE A CIVIL MATTER. LET THEM PAY FOR NEW TREES. GROW UP. This is not a criminal matter, and the people who cut down the trees may have been mistaken but they are not "perps". Watching too much CSI Miami perhaps? This should not be a Borough priority. It should not even be on the radar screen. Me thinks someone at the shade tree commission got a burr in their saddle and is blogging here without identifying themselves or their interests.

I think it is time to get rid of the shade tree commission. Give the authority to the DPW.

I think we should all get on the horn and call Borough Hall and ask that our tax dollars NOT be spent on such useless wastes of time! This is embarrassing. Even the Marx Brothers wouldn't waste their time with such chicanery!

Doesn't matter who filed the complaints. Wrong is wrong. And shame on you for not blowing the whistle on the Democrats. Not a political issue, rather a moral one.

Courtesy, the Shade Tree Comm. was asked out of courtesy, not permission. Go get the two bad guys for cutting down two trees, its okay to not pay taxes, pay to play, mistakes in the Finance Dept. But cut down two trees and watch out Metuchen will get you. We are a laughing stock. This has the potential to cost thousands of dollars, that Metuchen cannot simply afford. Sound familiar, that is why we fired the old auditor, to save $5000.00. This will cost more.

Double Standards are alive and well in Metuchen. Only democrats can do wrong with no consequences.

How about the simple fact that the complaint he mentions was not filed by a member of the Shade Tree Commission?

You use "citizens" in quotes as if to imply they are not citizens? Then you use perps and jerks to refer to the same two individuals? That's productive. The Woodwild Park Association is made up of a whole host of people and has a Board of Trustees. That Board of Trustees has executive members. Neither of your two "perps" are on the executive committee and only one of them is actually a trustee. You obviously have no legal training whatsoever because if you did you'd understand due process, probable cause and how simply wrong it was to put this legal opinion into the public record. An opinion does not constitute proof. It's not even evidence.

As for the letter, it is on the Borough's web site and linked to and reported on here. It was not provided by any Council person. Why don't you call the clerk and find out who requested that it be placed on the Borough web site instead of trying to further your own blatant and obvious agenda. You're actually doing harm to those you think you're helping.

Maybe what they did do was wrong but the town shouldn't be wasting their time and OUR money on this. Don't they have better things to do? Are we afraid that there will be an outbreak of tree removals? Does anyone think the judge would have realized he has gotten away it breaking the law and will now move on to bigger things, like removing bushes and grass?

Plain and simple. What they did was wrong and they should now face the consequences.

Give me a break, WPA did not believe this property belonged to them, which is why they went for approval to cut down the trees.

They were told no, and in the middle of the dead of winter hired someone to cut the trees then deliver them to their two houses so they could be used as Christmas decorations.

I am outraged by the actions of these two "citizens" and am stunned that on of them is a former judge. Yikes.

And the arrogance of then trying to blame the Shade Tree Commission or the Borough Council is unbelievable. The two perps are the ones who should be embarassed, I am glad the ownership was determined and think these two jerks should be fined and put to work.

As for how this got on the website, who is the only councilman that posts these type of stuff here? Who posted the stuff with the internal audit? Hmmm..not too hard to figure out, looks to me like our own little Mr Politics....

Its an OUTRAGE! Metuchen is slipping into the gutter, almost broke, Edison might gobble us up, blight all over, potholes galore, and many other issues facing us. We are worried about two trees. Only in Metuchen, unbelievable.

Most if not all shade trees in the Borough are clearly in or on the right away. These two trees were questionable, a group (WPA) believed that this piece of property belonged to them, no one ever questioned it.

They supposedly remove two tress to make room for a beautification plan for that property, that they believe is their own. The plans called for shrubs and trees. This is nothing more then making a mountain out of a mole hill.

This is just ridiculous! Way to spend our money! Cant you think of something more important. It would be very embarassing if your wrong.

A shocking unbelievable waste of time and money. Like a scene out of a Marx brothers political parody.

Now money will be wasted trying to collect the lawyers fees for this "OUTRAGE".

They are crazy! What about DUE PROCESS. He and the Mayor are allowing their political views to cloud their judgement. They had no idea who owned the property until Frizell conducted an investigation. If it is, or was Borough Property, the Borough should have known right away. Don't they know what they own. It should have been immediate. Obviously there was some question even on the part of The Borough. They didn't even know whose property it was. If the Borough did not know at the time of the crime(haHa) how did the WPA know. The Borough assumed it was theirs and the WPA assumed it was theirs. This is nothing more than a civil disagreement. What a waste of time and money, the ARROGANCE of this council is very upsetting.

I wonder which county will get the honor to hear the case - Union County? Somerset County?

You cannot be serious. We are going to waste time and money on surveys and attorneys fees over three trees. This is the priority for Borough government? Punishing citizens and spending money on matters of little to no importance to the Borough as a whole? Did somebodies toes get stepped on? Is this an ego or pride thing? This is the best use of time for those we have chosen to adminster our Borough?

Not to aggressively address the lack of parking issue, or the failing business issue, or the low percentage of Metuchen High graduates going on to four year colleges? Or pursuing the lack of competance at Borough Hall? Or how someone can make a $650,000 mistake and not be fired? This is the best use of time and tax dollars in Metuchen? You cannot be serious!

Who the heck is running the show at Borough Hall? Why was this letter put on the Borough's web site? It sounds very condescending and mentions citizens by name that may be prosecuted, possibly even imprisoned, by the Shade Tree Commission? Has the Mayor lost his mind? What happened to a fair hearing or fair trial? If the town truly wanted to prosecute the Woodwild Park Association, doesn't this letter being posted on the web site and now covered in the "press" make it awfully difficult to grant the citizen's their right to a fair trial? I think the fact that our town government has become bipartisan has quickly driven the old guard off a cliff. Time to throw the bums out!

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