Clarion Borough holds off on shade tree commission

Clarion Borough Council will not — at least for the foreseeable future — form a shade tree commission.

Borough resident Elizabeth Fulmer has been a longtime critic of the removal of the large trees along various streets and often attends council meetings to encourage its members to preserve trees along the streets.

Fulmer has long asked council to form a shade tree commission, an entity that can be formed under the state borough code.

Council member Keaton MacBeth agreed earlier this year to look into the matter.

“The public works committee looked into it,” MacBeth told Fulmer at council’s June meeting. “There’s just no support for a shade tree commission.”

MacBeth said the formation of such a commission would require a new tax levy of 1 to 3 mills.

“We would have to raise taxes,” MacBeth said. “You can’t take that money from somewhere else in the budget; in this economy, we can’t do that now.”

If it were to be formed, the commission could make and enforce ordinances (with the approval of council) regulating the care and protection of shade trees, including the exclusive care, custody and control of shade trees, along with authorization to plant, transplant, remove, maintain and protect shade trees on the streets and highways in the borough.

Council President Carol Lapinto said the increase in real estate taxes would be a burden, but also said the borough doesn’t have the staff to handle the extra work a shade tree commission could create.

“I read some sample ordinances. There’s a lot to it,” Lapinto said. “We would have to go out and inventory all of the trees. I support having trees, but we have a lot of projects we’re trying to get done.”

She said a shade tree ordinance “puts a lot of regulations” on the ownership of trees. “People would need a permit just to trim their own trees.”

Fulmer said she had information to present to council concerning trees and the benefits of having them in town.

She said trees can reduce energy costs in both winter and summer by providing windbreaks and cooling shade, increase property values by 15%, provide noise and view screens, and prevent erosion.

MacBeth, who accepted the packet of information from Fulmer, said the information should also be shared on Mayor Jennifer Fulmer Vinson’s “mayor’s page.”

“We’re not anti-tree, we just can’t justify raising taxes right now for a shade tree commission,” MacBeth said.

For her part, Fulmer said she understood the issue of raising taxes, but also was encouraged by council’s receptiveness to her research.

“And you could encourage people to replant trees,” she said.