You think that if you owed property you could do with it what you want as long as you adhered to the zoning laws.

Well you are wrong.

Mlive is reporting about two Canton Township brothers who removed an estimated 1400 trees from their property and the Township fined them almost a ½ million dollars for not getting their permission.

The brothers own a 16 acre plot amongst an industrial park, they cut down the trees with an intent on creating a Christmas tree farm.  The property was filled with "invasive plants like phragmites, buckthorn and autumn olive," according to their lawyer.

One problem though Canton Township requires property owners to get their permission and then promise that they will plant new trees before cutting down any existing trees, especially for landmark or historic trees.

The ordinance states:

"Landmark tree replacement: Whenever a tree removal permit is issued for the removal of any landmark tree with a (diameter at breast height) of six inches or greater, such trees shall be relocated or replaced by the permit grantee. Every landmark/historic tree that is removed shall be replaced by three trees with a minimum caliper of four inches. Such trees will be of the species from section

Replacement of other trees: Whenever a tree removal permit is issued for the removal of trees, other than landmark/historic trees, with a (diameter at breast height) of six inches or greater (excluding boxelder (acer negundo), ash (fraxinus spp) and cottonwood (populus spp)), such trees shall be relocated or replaced by the permit grantee if more than 25 percent of the total inventory of regulated trees is removed."

According to the article:

Canton Township defines 'trees' as 'any woody plant with at least one well-defined stem and having a minimum diameter at breast height of three inches.' The Percy parcel was used historically by a local farmer for dairy pasture, so much of the vegetation on the parcel was invasive buckthorn, scrub brush and dead ash trees.

Their land is zoned "heavy industrial," and according to their attorney the brothers believed they were in the clear under the farming exemption when they removed the trees.

The Canton Township Attorney, Kristin Kolb, told Mlive that the brothers were "specifically told at least twice last year" that if they were to remove the trees, they needed a permit. She then stated that "(They) never came and got one”.

The brothers lawyer said that they are currently working to resolve the matter but if needed they are prepared to take it to court.  You must also know that they are currently moving forward to plant 2,500 Christmas trees on the property they cleared, and have already planted 1,000 of them.

The township attorney has said the brothers options include:

  • Paying money into the tree fund to plant trees across the township
  • planting replacement trees
  • or a combination of both

The question I have is why can you not do what you want to do with property you own as long as it is in within zoning requirements?  This tree ordinance really has nothing to do with zoning, does it?

This is another reason why people should be aware of what are all of the ordinances in your local government unit before you move forward to actually have the gall to do something on your own property.

Other questions:

If the brothers did know they had to get permission, whether they agreed with that ordinance or not why did they not seek permission or some other redress?

If they have already planted 1000 Christmas trees and are planning on planting another 1500, as the ordinance states, why does that not get them out of this pickle?

I am not faulting the township for following their ordinance but I am faulting either the wording of the ordinance or the citizens not realizing what their local government has passed.  Or perhaps they do and they are fine with it, which would mean that people who believe in property rights might not want to move to Canton Township.

Sounds like some Home Owners Association rules that people run into from time to time.

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