Ash Spared the Ax, Rezoning Revisited

Beacon Street’s shady canopy will not be further compromised, as the Mattapoisett Planning Board denied a request for a permit to have one of its ash trees cut down. The petition included notes from landscaper Charles Dupont that the tree was diseased and a danger not only to the applicants navigating in and out of their driveway but also to the public. Dupont also stated to the Board that the tree roots were causing drainage issues.

But the green ash tree had its protectors in the form of Tree Warden Roland Cote, Highway Supervisor Barry Denham, and the Tree Committee, whose spokesperson, Sandra Hering, reported in detail to the Board.

“When you go up Beacon Street towards Ned’s Point, the canopy of trees has a lot of bare spots. In spite of that, [the canopy] is one of the characteristics that we want to keep,” Hering said. “This ash tree is part of that canopy. I respect that it is difficult to get in the driveway. I wish there was another solution … electrical wires make it difficult to replant a tree, so a replacement tree would be difficult. In terms of replacement costs, $3,000.

“Trees provide value to our property and our town; their roots protect against soil erosions. Trees and their roots filter water draining into the harbor; they improve air quality and reduce air temperatures. The Tree Committee really wants to stop the removal of trees in our town.”

The Planning Board had requested the input of the Tree Warden, citing their lack of knowledge in this area.

“I pruned the tree back two years ago, and the owners were pleased with the work at that time,” Cote said. He noted that he didn’t find anything wrong with the tree.

“It’s large, big and nothing is wrong with it. It is producing leaves; it isn’t rotting. If it were bad, I’d take it down.”

Dupont interjected.

“One of the concerns my clients have is the sidewalk: the asphalt is completely surrounding the tree,” he said. “My clients are not apposed to replanting trees, but all of the activity of the house takes place at that spot.”

Denham explained, “We will be, in the next year, doing road and sidewalk planning, re-establishing sidewalks and addressing drainage issues. I only have $1,000 in my budget for site work, so I have to wait until there is a bigger road project.”

He noted this as the reason why he couldn’t do the site work at that specific location now to ascertain where the residents’ boundary lines fall.

The applicant inquired, “What if this tree is diseased and it comes down [due to storms] on our home or car? Who is responsible?”

Chairman Thomas Tucker replied, “It might be viewed as an act of god.”

Board member Ronald Merlo made a motion to deny the request based on Cote’s evaluation. The permit request was denied.

Next up was a request by the Durbins, 21 Bay Road, Lot #49, for reconstruction of an accessory building. Original plans that abutters had appealed were modified, and new plans show the structure on the original footprint but meeting the newly established flood zone building requirements. Those requirements stipulate that new buildings be placed on concrete columns elevated 8.4 feet. This building would be used as an artist’s studio by the occupants. The Board approved the plans as submitted. Durbin is now clear to return to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Continued until June 17 was the Discussion of “Proposed Drainage Improvements” as prepared for Michael Solimando of Appaloosa Lane.

Lastly, resident Bonnie DeSouza of 12 Marion Road came before the Board to discuss the poor turnout at the SRPEDD hearing. The SRPEDD hearing had been held to share with the town boards and the public SRPEDD’s findings of the town’s plans for future development within the rail corridor, as well as other spaces in town including rezoning options and possibilities.

She asked if the Board could and would consider using various forms of public announcements versus just the legal requirement to alert the public of meetings they will be holding on the topic of rezoning and master planning. DeSouza noted that not everyone is going to read the legal notices. Several suggestions were offered, such as descriptive information on what the public notice is all about so that people would more readily understand the work of the Board, using the sign at the Route 6 intersection at North Street informing the public of hearings and meetings, and sending press releases to the newspapers in conjunction with the legal notices.     DeSouza said, “I absolutely urge the Board to advertise.” She believes that by doing so, they would receive the public participation they have been requesting.

The Board discussed that the SRPEDD hearing was not a binding plan but was necessary to be completed and submitted to the Governor. They conceded that more could be done to arouse public interest in the work that lies before them, a massive new master plan and rezoning effort. The Planning Board members are seeking public input to help them craft plans, section by section, from business sectors, to residential development, to wetlands and open space, in an effort to ensure that the needs of the town from economic development to recreation are met in the coming years.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for June 17.

By Marilou Newell

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