According to resident Rick Jones, there seems to be a serious conflict of interest amongst the code enforcers in Rumson.
"We feel that there is a serious conflict of interest when the town official who wasn't administering and enforcing an ordinance properly is the same person who sends you requirements for an appeal and is the same person who will be the Secretary of the Planning Board when the appeal is heard," Jones said.
Rick Jones resides on 37 Navesink Ave, which is right next door to 35 Navesink Ave. where close to 80 trees were cut down. Many neighbors and citizens of Rumson are upset with the loss of so many trees. Jones attended Wednesday night's Shade Tree Commission meeting at Rumson Borough Hall to share his concerns.
"Where the trees once shaded the street I live on, there is now bright sun light shinning through," Jones said at the meeting. "It looks completely different."
In an appeal pursuant to borough ordinance, Jones claims that Frederick Andre, who is the Borough Tree Conservation Officer and Code Enforcement Officer, demonstrated improper administration and enforcement of the Tree Protection Ordinance.
On improper administration, Jones claims that Andre failed to obtain a town-approved site plan prior to it's issuance, failed to submit an evaluation from a tree expert and failed to have a tree expert sign the Tree Removal Permit. These failures by Andre, according to Jones, resulted in clear cutting and a substantial change in drainage patterns.
On improper enforcement, Jones claims that Andre did not take action to stop the permit applicant from removing more then 15 trees as written in the permit. However, in the Tree Protection Ordinance there are exceptions to trees that can be cut down without a permit.
On Jones's facebook page regarding the clear cutting issue, he claims that the appeal process was "very heavy handed and excessive." He recieved a letter from Andre, who is also the Zoning Officer, describing what he needs to do. On his facebook page under "Rumson Tree Update/Council Meeting Last Night" you can read the details for the appeal submission process.
At the Shade Tree Commission Meeting, Andre said he could not comment on the situation until after the scheduled hearing for the appeal. Andre made it clear that the Shade Tree meeting was there to only discuss matters involving current tree issues, not matters of appeals.
Jones and his co-writer Cynthia Zipf are scheduled to make their appeal as "aggrieved adjoining property owners" to the Planning Board on August 1st at 7:30 p.m.
Considering the appeal questions Andre's administration and enforcement of the "Tree Removal Permit as the Tree Conservation Officer," Jones will request that the Planning Board has someone else act as secretary for the matter.
"Once we understand how the ordinance failed to prevent a prohibited activity, and why the process was not followed, we will all be better able to make sure this never happens again," said Jones.