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New Jersey homeowner faces jaw-dropping fine after allegedly cutting down neighbor's trees: 'The fine per tree is $1,000'

"They have to build a road, remove the debris, plant big trees, and water them for two years."

Tree law; Fine after allegedly cutting down neighbor's trees

Photo Credit: iStock

A homeowner in Kinnelon, New Jersey, is about to find out what happens when you cut down a neighbor's trees.

Tree law is a subject of interest in online communities like r/legaladvice, so much so that there's even an often-shared comic about the subreddit's enthusiastic response. The potential penalties in these cases can make them very satisfying to read about.

Twitter user Sam Glickman (@SamAsIAm) recently took to the platform to share a story relayed by the borough forester involved in the case, later identified as John Linson by Northjersey.com.

As Glickman explained, the alleged culprit, also identified by the local outlet as Grant Haber, "cut down 32 big mature trees on his neighbor's New Jersey property to get a better view of New York City. He hired a guy who hired another guy."

Unfortunately for Haber — but fortunately for the rest of the U.S. — most states have laws against cutting down another person's trees since they're so hard to replace, so valuable, and so important for purifying our air. Sometimes, the laws protecting them can be quite vicious.

"The fine per tree is $1,000, so the guy probably thought he was going to just pay a $32,000 fine," Glickman said. "But the arborist wrote violations to all three parties, 96 in all, and there's a provision requiring the replanting of like trees 'of the same size.'"

In other words, the culprit and both the people hired to do the task may be held legally responsible for replacing the trees they removed — not just planting new saplings, but actually transporting full-grown trees to the victim's lot and making sure they survive being transplanted.

Since trees are so big and so hard to move without hurting them, the process comes with a hefty price tag. According to Glickman, the victim had been in touch with the only company willing to do the job.

"They have to build a road, remove the debris, plant big trees, and water them for two years," Glickman said. "He quoted $1.5 million. And additional fines total $400,000." If true, that would bring the grand total price tag for cutting down 32 mature trees to almost $2 million.

A preliminary hearing in the Kinnelon Municipal Court was held on June 27 over Zoom, Glickman said.

 "Zoom was overwhelmed," he explained, adding that some viewers were "asked to leave so the prosecutor could log in."

The session was rescheduled to July 18 after Haber's lawyer requested additional time to review information related to the case. 

When reached by Northjersey.com, Linson would not comment on the social media price estimate for replacing the trees other than to say it was "slightly exaggerated." 

"I am only able to state that 32 trees were removed without a permit," he told the outlet.

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