Board may mandate tree trimming above sidewalks
New rule could force residents to trim to 8 feet above sidewalks
Township officials are starting talks on whether Hatfield should require that trees be trimmed over and around sidewalks.
“What we’re simply recommending that the board consider at next month’s meeting, is to amend our ordinance to prohibit the growth of trees or any other type of vegetation along the sidewalks,” said Township Manager Aaron Bibro.
The new code is meant to ensure that “when people are out walking, they’re able to walk through the sidewalks safely, without having some of the growth from the branches hanging over them, or impeding the walkway,” Bibro said.
The proposed ordinance was suggested by staff in the township’s code enforcement and police departments, Bibro told the board during their Aug. 23 meeting, and would require that property owners clear any vegetation above a sidewalk or roadway to a set height limit.
“What this ordinance would say is simply that you need to maintain a clearance of 8 feet (tall) on sidewalks — I don’t think we have anybody taller than 8 feet in Hatfield — and 14 feet on the road, which clears the majority, if not all, of the vehicles that are coming down the public streets,” Bibro said.
Enforcement of the new code would be handled by either code staff or police, similar to the way current restrictions on tall grass and noise are handled, and Bibro and commissioners’ President Tom Zipfel said residents with a potential problem would receive a warning before any citation or fine.
“We place the resident on notice, of a matter that they need to attend to, certainly well before any action is taken,” Zipfel said.
The commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 23 to advertise the ordinance, and Bibro said the board could formally vote next month to adopt it — and said the township will take what he called “a very reasonable approach” with any offenders.
“We have a code enforcement office which will always send more of a headsup type notice, and give them ample time to fix this situation, before it goes any further,” he said.
In response to a resident question, the manager added that line-of-sight questions near intersections are already addressed in the township code, so if a tree or other growth blocks a driver’s view of a cross street, they should contact township staff or police as soon as possible.
“If someone’s having a hard time getting out of an intersection, they can call the administration and police, and the police will respond and send a note to the property owner to make sure they trim that back,” Bibro said.