By Ben Oleksinski
The Planning Board approved the proposed sidewalk on the south side of Pine Hill Road and the necessary cutting of some 38 trees at their Tuesday June 25 meeting. The plan was amended with suggestions that the town appropriate more funding for mitigation.
The Scenic Roads public hearing with Public Works Engineer Adrienne St. Joh, DPW Director David Manugian, and Tree Warden Dennis Freeman along with the Bedford Arbor Resources Committee (BARC) was the chief order of business. Residents were also present to offer their perspectives and to ask questions.
The consensus was that the Pine Hill sidewalk is a priority construction project favored by many, but it is not without concerns. Proper removal and replacement of the trees was the main consideration.
The plans mark 38 trees, of different species, with sizes ranging between 3 to 28 inches within the scope of the work. Even trees not counted for removal have been marked by the Tree Warden and BARC because the roots are close to the project area. This is just a precaution, however, as the aim is to minimize losing trees on site. Each tree is to be replaced, in an effort to maintain the road’s neighborhood feel. Mitigation could call for additional replacement trees as well.
The replacement trees will also discourage the area from becoming a traffic thruway, retaining the safe, neighborhood feel of the area following construction.
Further, environmental issues such as carbon sequestration (the process of removed trees breaking down over the years) were mentioned, as felled trees would go to contractors who then chip the trees to be used as compost.
Allowing enough room for safe use of the sidewalk was another talking point at the hearing, and of particular concern to nearby residents. Plans call for a statutory 3-foot strip of grass separating the sidewalk from the roadway. These easements will be placed along the entire layout, from Heritage Drive to North Road, even when the walk meanders.
BARC supported the sidewalk, but issued a statement. They requested with some urgency that two changes be made. First, to be flexible about the 3-foot border strip that would preserve roadside trees which would be consistent with other sidewalks in town. Second, to take the opportunity to experiment with permeable pavement around trees. Permeable pavement would allow rainwater to pass through the sidewalk, changing runoff patterns and volume.
Planning Board member Jeffrey Cohen suggested that Town add more mitigation funding to address the concerns expressed at the hearing.
It must be noted that the motion is just the beginning of the approval process, not the end.