Last night (June 28th) about 30 or so people attended the Selectboard meeting to discuss the subject of roadside tree removal. The questions and concerns were well-informed. Over the course of three meetings in three weeks’s time, the Board had the opportunity to listen, learn and self-educate on the issue. Speaking for myself, this has been an enjoyable process which has raised intriguing questions and previously unknown opportunities.
Special thanks to all of the folks who stood at the podium last night. For everyone’s reference, I’m posting the notes I took during the meeting.
Another thing: you folks made a difference. I’m proud of you. You should be proud of yourselves, too. The outcome of your work is a detailed draft contract and a thoughtful approach to a comprehensive project.
I also want to thank Board Chair, Dave Maxwell for excellent leadership, thoughtfulness, and professionalism over the last three weeks. As the newest member of the board, I’m learning the differences between policy, governance, and management. Sometimes, after a stressful moment, Dave might share a bit of advice in a-wise-old-man-once-told-me story. Thanks, Dave!
Here are my notes from last night’s meeting. Please keep in mind I was typing while listening, so don’t expect polished writing.
- Nathaniel Miller: Appreciates first dibs on timber. Question of cost-shift to property owner. Opportunity to negotiate with Town and/or tree removal contractor.
- Mel Adams: Doesn’t want to see clear-cut. Approves isolated, select cutting. Can’t see how removal in some areas with stumps remaining will maintain scenic quality. His support depends on whether on how we manage project. Specific instructions and guidelines should be in contract.
- Kyle Daniels: Approves selective cutting, but is concerned that only one contractor has been contacted. Shouldn’t there be a Request For Proposal? Traffic control is direct cost to Town. Can we get a better deal? Can the Town make money on the deal? Suggests offering a test area. Will contract be reviewed by an attorney?
- Russ Barrett adds the possibility of a 3-way contract including property owners
- Rodney Elmer: Does Town have a budget for roadside clearing? He referenced potential for natural disasters. Mentions age of tree stock. What about noise? Are trees too big to grind? Where is chipper located? Logistically, this is a tremendous job. He and others estimate there may be as much as 500 cords per mile in some areas. Tremendous profit to be made on the part of the contractor. Concerned about bare dirt, erosion, etc. There’s no question works need to be done: 68 trees hit by snow plow on his section of road. Problem of tree cuts along roads, young trees will reach to road to get access to more light.
- Conrad “Conny” Motyka: Owns 1/2 mile of frontage on Loop Road. Trent Tucker came to his house and talked to him about the project. Connie has been a forester since 1962. He has some concerns in a number of ways. 1. Historic roads weren’t designed well; trees have acted as good guardrails where there’s a steep bank. 2. Trees hold historic roads together on downhill embankments. 3. Trees removal on uphill side may cause erosion. Trees may be doing the Town a service in some places. Suggests plow truck drivers should drive more slowly and carefully. 4. Also says he owns trees and has paid taxes on them. He wants profits from the loss of his trees.
- Frank Pecora: Turkey Hill. He asks who is deciding what trees are going to get cut. He wonders if he objects to a specific tree would the Town respect that; if the Warden & Road Foreman say it’s unsafe, and he doesn’t agree, who has final authority?
- Melinda Appel: Winch Hill Rd. Road trimming on her property has been very aggressive. Culvert was struck last year. Her property was cut more aggressively than on her neighbor’s property.
- Kyle Daniels & Mel Adams ask who is going to determine the center of roads and measurement of right of way. Roads shift within original 3-rod corridor over time.
- Joe Zuaro: Opportunity to save money; wants to be careful about it. Want it done right.
- Therese Elmer: What is total mileage of project? This year? Multiple years? What happens if Limlaw chooses to not accept terms of new contract? What about the cost to the Town of traffic control. All land owners should have a chance to look at contract.
- Trish Coppolino: Concerned about stream erosion. Need to follow state policies. Road was widened in front of her property 4 weeks ago without erosion control.
- Mary McCain: Rural heritage sites? Stony brook bridge & swimming hole area. Aesthetics & beauty.
- Kyle Daniels: Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel? Should we have a management plan?
- My response: the State has a new Municipal Roads Program. I described three step process. Discuss the benefits of a comprehensive plan in general.
- Therese Elmer: Follows up on question about why Town has to pay to clean up, replant and reseed area; pay for erosion control.
- Mary Dollenmair: How many property owners are there? Was told that Town Manage would have that number available. Jeff responds that all property owners will be contacted. (Didn’t give a number.) Mary says, if there are a hundred property owners, then the process to contact property owners will take a long time.
- Carolyn Stevens: The new contract should specify which laws should be followed vs. general clause. Questions the definition of “shade tree”. Definition doesn’t say anything about residential downtown vs. back roads. The problem of subjective decision-making. Surveyed rights of way: problems of shifting road centers. What about second-home owners? Survey distance is horizontal distance vs. surface distance. Riparian buffers, etc. Safety: don’t want people increasing speeds. Wider roads means faster cars.
- Jon Quinn: Expresses thanks for alternative (funding) ways to get the job done.
- Kyle Daniels: Asks if there’s another special meeting.
- Dave Maxwell: He recommends Town Manager to move forward with a pilot effort on Winch Hill. Dave emphasized the approach would involve communication and a fair process.