When residents of the Summerbrooke housing development looked out their windows last week, they were dismayed to see a work crew removing scores of mature trees.
“By Wednesday noon of last week, they were all gone, and that was very hard to swallow,” said Tracy Platt, fighting back tears. “Everything we had planned on – we were going to retire there – was gone.”
Platt and other residents of the development attended a North Strabane Township supervisors’ meeting Tuesday night to ask the board to compel a developer to restore a buffer zone between the Summerbrooke and Majestic Hills developments.
The trees were removed by JND Properties, which is the developer for the Majestic Hills housing development. That development is moving into another building phase.
Township ordinance requires that there be a 15-foot buffer on the Majestic Hills side and an additional 50-foot buffer on the Summerbrooke side, giving residents a total of 65 feet between the two developments. Some of the land can remain open space, but at least 35 feet on the Summerbrooke side must be a planted buffer.
However, there is some uncertainty where the plot line between the two developments is located, and thus a discrepancy remains which property contained the trees. Township Manger Frank Siffrinn said Wednesday the township believes the logged trees were on Majestic Hills property.
The township is requiring JND Properties to have the property surveyed and staked.
Supervisor Jeff Stanley assured residents the buffer will be replaced. Board Chairman Steve Motzer agreed that the bueffer should include mature trees similar to those removed.
“They owe the residents. They owe this township,” he said.
Other people who moved into Summerbrooke just months ago said they were equally disappointed and feel their property value has dropped since the trees were removed.
Stanley said the township has ordinances in place for developers and a preconstruction meeting would have alleviated the problem.
Also at the meeting, supervisors told residents they will have to make a decision soon on whether Summerbrooke will contain a swimming pool and clubhouse.
Township zoning requires a certain amount of recreational amenities in housing developments. Once a 75 percent build-out of Summerbrooke is reached the homeowners’ association is to determine what recreational amenities residents want, including voting on the original plans for a swimming pool, clubhouse and walking trail.
Supervisors want that decision made prior to them giving the developer final site plan approval for the next building phase.