Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Where'd the Trees Go?

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Where'd the Trees Go?

Article excerpt

A Mahwah man has been charged with allegedly chopping down more than 200 trees on land he doesn't own to get a better view of the mountains.

Jay Patel, whose expansive Tudor Rose Terrace house has a rear view of the lot that was clear-cut, is due in court today to face criminal charges for allegedly hiring a company to fell 221 trees valued at more than $1 million, police said.

"It's pretty bizarre that someone would go onto someone else's property and cut down that many trees without authorization," said Arthur Chagaris, the attorney representing the lot's owner, Donald Cantow.

But Ken Porro, an attorney for Patel, said his client believed the trees were on his property.

"If you look from the top of his property, it looks like he cleared trees from straight down," Porro said. "Unfortunately the naked eye versus the survey map is the problem."

Patel and Cantow live in Rio Vista Mahwah, a development of multimillion-dollar homes that spans more than 450 acres. Patel's house, assessed at $2.4 million, sits on 1.85 acres around the bend from the 1.88-acre Cantow lot on the same U-shaped street. The Cantow residence is several blocks away on a different lot.

Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli released information about the months-long investigation of the incident on Wednesday, after confirming that Patel had received the criminal charges filed against him last week.

Township code officials were first alerted there might be a problem last March when residents reported hearing the buzzing of chain saws in the neighborhood for several days. When Tom Mulvey, Mahwah's zoning and property maintenance officer, investigated, he said he found that "the whole hillside was practically cut down."

That same month, Patel was cited for allegedly violating municipal codes that require a permit to fell trees and limit at five the number of trees that can be removed in a 12-month period, Mulvey said on Wednesday.

Porro, who is representing Patel on the alleged municipal violations, said he was surprised to learn that criminal charges had been filed.

"I thought we were looking to cure the situation through the [Mahwah] Environmental Commission," said Porro, who is with the firm of Wells, Jaworski & Liebman. …

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