Understanding the Tree Ordinance

Why We Have a Tree Ordinance

Bedford OakThe New York State Environmental Quality Review Act of 2018 designates local governments like our town to serve as stewards of air, water, land, and living resources. If tree harvesting practices are poorly carried out they can result in significant environmental and aesthetic damage to the land and to adjacent lands and waters.

To help our town protect our environment for the use of this and future generations, our town has instituted a Tree Ordinance, a tree advisory board, and a code enforcement officer who may enforce our ordinance. The officer with the help of the TAB will inspect trees described in applications and either grant, grant with conditions or deny tree removal permits.

Why Trees Important to Bedford

Trees provide a number of important services to our town. Among the valuable benefits trees have on the environment, trees:

  • stabilize the soil
  • control water pollution by preventing soil erosion and flooding
  • reduce air pollution
  • provide oxygen,
  • temper noise
  • provide a natural habitat for wildlife
  • have aesthetic and historic value

The Tree Advisory Board Is Your Friend

Staff Measuring Tree DiameterIf you have any questions pertaining to the application process or questions about trees on your property, the Town of Bedford Tree Advisory Board can be used as a resource! The Tree Advisory Board is an advisory group, tasked with helping both residents and the groups and individuals making decisions about your trees at every step in the application process, including the tree ordinance enforcement officer, planning board, wetlands control commission, etc. Resources about both removal and planting trees can be found on their page on the town website, or you can email them directly.

Exceptions to the Tree Ordinance

  • Dead Trees
  • If your tree poses a threat to a structure or to vehicle or pedestrian traffic (in this case we suggest you consult an arborist or the Tree Advisory Board)
  • Tree removal to control forest fire during such a fire
  • Tree removal to maintain right-of-way for public utilities (see if this could apply to your tree)

When You Need a Permit to Remove a Tree

  • If a tree is 18'' or over in diameter at breast height (dbh)
  • If a tree is a protected native plant
  • If your tree is over 8'' in diameter and within 150 feet of a scenic road
  • If a tree resides within a designated Historic District in Katonah or Bedford Village
  • If your tree resides in a wetland
  • If your tree grows on a steep slope, generally defined as ground areas with a minimum slope of 25% or greater, with a minimum area of 100 square feet and a minimum horizontal distance of 10 feet.

Cutting Down Multiple Trees

If you are cutting down multiple trees in a single calendar year, you may need a permit depending on the size of your property and how many trees you are cutting down. Consult the guidelines below to see if you will need a permit.

  • More than 10 trees on properties of four acres or less.
  • More than 20 trees on properties of six acres or less and more than four acres.
  • More than 30 trees on properties of eight acres or less and more than six acres.
  • More than 40 trees on properties of 10 acres or less and more than eight acres.
  • More than 50 trees on properties of more than 10 acres.

Tree Removal Permit Application Instructions

Note: If your tree is being removed for the following reasons, you should consult the town code for further instruction: tree removal for the purpose of sale of trees or tree products for use of the property; tree removal for the purpose of following a forest management program administered under New York State Real Property Tax Law; tree removal for the purpose of following the Cooperative Forest Management Program of the Environmental Conservation Law.

With your application (PDF), please submit:

  • Color photographs of the area where the tree is to be removed. In your photograph, please identify trees that will remain after the removal is complete
  • A survey or sketch of that section to be disturbed. In your survey, please show the number, location, and common name of all trees to be removed, as well as the dbh of each and the distance of each from nearby structures, roads, or other landmarks which will enable the trees to be easily identified.
  • The appropriate fee for your application ($50 plus $5 per tree if you are removing more than 10 trees)

Approved Application with Conditions

The Enforcement Officer and/or Tree Advisory Board may set conditions for tree removal when approving a permit. These conditions may include replanting to prevent erosion, days and hours of removal operations, and a performance bond to assure compliance.


If you are unhappy with the outcome of your Tree Removal Application, you are welcome to submit an appeal. Appeals can be made to the Zoning Board of Appeals, along with a statement laying out the reasons for your appeal, within 10 days of your decision outcome.