Believe it or not, you don't have control over everything on your property. A recent debate in New Paltz, NY has sparked the conversation over when you can - and can't - cut down trees on your own property.

The conversation is focused on the idea of "shade trees" and when the benefit to the larger community outweighs the desires of a homeowner. Luckily, there are clearly-written ordinances to help with any confusion.

Certain trees in New Paltz, NY have specific rights (Google/Canva)
Certain trees in New Paltz, NY have specific rights (Google/Canva)

"Shade Trees" in New Paltz, NY

"Sad thing:  my neighbors seem to have taken down trees that should be protected by our Shade Tree ordinances", said the recent Facebook post. "By the time anything might be done, it's too late - the trees (perfectly healthy) are gone", they lamented. So when is it illegal to cut down your own trees?


Property Rights and Tree Care in New Paltz, NY

According to many commenters who jumped in the thread, there should never be a reason not to do whatever you want on your own property. "If [the trees are] on that person's property nothing anyone can do honestly they want it gone it should be gone", said one resident. "If I pay my taxes and I want a tree down and I’m paying to have it cut, it’s getting cut…", said another. The local laws, however, say something different.

Shade Tree Ordinances in the Village of New Paltz, NY

In the Village of New Paltz, there are specific ordinances in place to protect trees that fall under specific circumstances. "Shade Trees" (there's even a designated Shade Tree Commission in New Paltz) are defined as trees "on public or private property along any public street or thoroughfare in the space or area measured 20 feet from the edge of the curb or road pavement". Per the village of New Paltz, these shade trees cannot be removed without approval of Shade Tree Commission.

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There are some exceptions to the ordinance, including how damaged or dying trees are assessed. If a tree "is severely damaged and causes an immediate danger", residents can directly appeal to the Building Department or the Department of Public Works instead. Speaking of trees...

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