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Do you want to add a bathroom, bedroom or garage to your home?

In the Abingtons, any reputable builder will tell you that you have to get a permit first before you do any of the above-mentioned household repairs. When it comes to your trees, you might be thinking, “Are you serious? I have to get a permit to work on them, too?”

Perhaps the thought is a bit ridiculous but if you think through the process, it really isn’t.

In the case of the additions to your house, permits protect both the homeowner and the neighbors. The permit process protects the homeowner from shoddy work that will burn or fall down immediately. On the other hand, the permit process protects the neighborhood from a surprise eight-story multi-unit emerging overnight.

In the case of trees, permits can help protect the neighborhood because home values and quality of life issues are directly staked to the presence of trees. In Clarks Summit and Clarks Green, the permit process protects only the trees within the right-of-way; in other words, within several feet from the edge of the road. Without community protection of these trees, the valuable canopy over a community streetscape like Glenburn Road could be radically altered at the whims of a new homeowner or two who decide they do not like raking leaves.

Permitting tree work also protects the homeowner. In the case of building, the permit process provides peace of mind for the homeowner, knowing that the work will be properly performed. Tree permits work the same way. Improperly pruned trees are not only unsightly, they actually become more dangerous and more expensive to maintain than properly pruned trees. Clarks Summit and Clarks Green require that all right-of-way trees be pruned in line with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines. The sad reality is that most pruning being done in the Abingtons is not in line with these national “best practice” standards.

Do you have to get a permit in Clarks Summit and Clarks Green to have trees on your property removed or pruned? Maybe. If the tree is clearly not in the right-of-way, then you can do with the tree as you like. Be forewarned, however, that you should follow the same standards required in the permit process; you might want to use an insured company that can demonstrate that they strictly adhere to ANSI standards. If the tree is within the right-of-way, you must first get a permit before doing anything to it. Working on borough trees without a permit may get you a visit from Lori Harris, the code enforcement officer for both Clarks Summit and Clarks Green.

Joshua Arp is an ISA certified Municipal Specialist, a Clarks Summit Tree Commissioner, and an operator of a landscape maintenance business. He can be reached at