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Michigan Community Dealing With Hardwood Tree Removal Dispute

Hardwood trees can take upwards of twenty years or more to reach full maturity. And a Michigan township is in the middle of a complicated legal feud dealing with hardwood trees.

According to The Detroit News, a Canton Township feud has accused local “tree police” of harassment of businesses, prompting a statewide push for lawmakers to implement rules limiting tree removal or force companies to pay replacement fees.

Canton is one of Michigan’s fastest growing communities, with a total population of approximately 90,173 and is consistently ranked one of the safest cities in the United States.

New legislation would allow local governments across Michigan to regulate the cutting of larger “heritage” trees. Additionally, the rules would ban more aggressive ordinances regulating smaller trees in business, commercial, industrial, and agricultural zones.

The Township sued Gary and Matt Percy, alleging that the two businessmen and brothers removed 1,500 protected hardwood trees from an industrial property prior to seeking approval through any local permitting process. Additionally, the brothers didn’t pay to plant any replacement trees or vegetation on the public property.

Government officials have asked the Percys to pay as much as $550,000 into a tree fund.

“We’re talking about personal property,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, sponsor of one of the measures, and a former logging trucker who has regularly refunded with environmental organizations. “We’re talking about the ability of local units to now tell someone with personal property, ‘You don’t technically own that tree. We own it by zoning. Therefore, we can dictate what you can and cannot do with that tree.'”

Critics of the tree removal have continually stated that these trees are not only visually appealing but can help draw chemical contaminants from the soil on industrial properties, provide a sight or sound barrier between residential areas and commercial properties, and serve as a natural filtration system for storm water.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about trees,” added Jen Rigterink, of the Michigan Municipal League. “But the legislation speaks to all vegetation ordinances, which is a lot broader than trees.”

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