Pragmatism, Safety Collide with Tree Advocacy

            Being a tree warden is no small task. The average tree warden must possess a spectrum of skills, like maintaining public tree inventories, interfacing with the public and town government, and performing physical labor such as pruning, planting, and cutting down trees.

            Since 1899, according to the Massachusetts Tree Warden and Foresters Association, Massachusetts General Law has mandated that all the Commonwealth’s cities and towns employ a tree warden (M.G.L. Chapter 41, Section 1 and 106). As noted, the scope of responsibilities is fairly wide-ranging; however, to summarize, the job requires that the tree warden fill the role of both manager and advocate protecting trees where necessary or protecting the public from dangerous trees.

            While Mattapoisett Tree Warden Roland Cote can present findings on trees suspected of being a danger to the townspeople, he first needs to obtain the Planning Board’s permission to remove them.

            On January 4, during two hearings held by the Planning Board, Cote advocated for the removal of two trees growing along scenic highways. His assumptions were met with some pushback.

            The first tree discussed is located at 9 Ship Street on a corner lot where an ash tree is situated on the Beacon Street side of the intersection. Homeowner Jim Parker had previously sought to have the tree removed from town property due to its proximity to his driveway. The 2013 effort failed when brought before the Planning Board. This time Parker was armed with two letters, one from well-known local arborist David Mendell and the second from local landscaper Charles Dupont. Both held that the tree had become structurally unsound due to a cavity in the tree known as a split crotch.

            Mattapoisett Tree Committee member Sandra Hering spoke in favor of saving the tree, saying it was one of a declining number of ash trees still growing in the U.S. and that so far, the tree did not exhibit any insect or disease issues, including the presence of the dreaded emerald ash borer. Noting that, if and when new sidewalks are constructed along the designated scenic way, “We are going to lose more trees, creating further loss to the canopy.” After some discussion, the majority of the Planning Board agreed the tree should be removed.

            An oak tree located at 177 North Street came up next for the chopping block, but not before Hering expressed that a hollow sound Cote found upon tapping the tree trunk did not constitute disease. Furthermore, she said, removing one of the oaks that forms a cluster could weaken the remaining trees. She advocated for leaving the tree(s) in place.

            The property owner, Ellen Schneider, stated that the tree(s) in question created a blind spot when she and her family exited their driveway; thus, the tree(s) was a safety matter. Cote sided with Schneider, and subsequently, the board members by a majority, once again not by unanimous decision, voted to have the cluster removed, not the singular tree.

            Member Nathan Ketchel inquired about whether or not trees were being planted to replace those the board had approved for removal. It was noted that neither the Tree Committee nor the tree warden has a budget that can support the purchasing of trees. Ketchel wondered aloud about other funding sources. Member Karen Field said she would broach the matter at the Community Preservation Committee’s next meeting.

            A subdivision site plan review hearing for property located at 0 Randall Road, owned by Stephen Randon, was ultimately continued until March 1 when it was ascertained that only a few of the 26 abutters had actually received notification of the public hearing. Representing G.A.F. Engineering, Bill Madden laid out several waivers his client would be seeking. Those included but were not limited to a reduction in private roadway width, use of crushed gravel, no 4-foot utility strips, no sidewalks, and a hammerhead configuration for vehicle turnarounds.

            Continued to February 1 without being reopened were Randall Solar, LLC for a solar array on Randall Lane, Park Lane extension subdivision, and Selha Way site plan modification.

            The Mattapoisett Planning Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 1, at 7:00 pm.

Mattapoisett Planning Board

By Marilou Newell

Leave A Comment...