Planning Board ~ Scenic Roads Public Hearing, Part I

Jan. 12, 2021—The Planning Board began a public hearing on the proposed removal by Eversource of 31 trees along or near Page Road.

The public hearing was continued to Jan. 26 to allow the public to do more research into the matter. Jacqueline Edwards, long-time chair of the town Arbor Resources Committee (BARC), said at the hearing that she didn’t think that was enough time.

The hearing was held by the Planning Board in conjunction with Tree Warden Dennis Freeman of the Department of Public Works because Page Road is designated a “scenic road,” which protects trees and stone walls.

Of the trees slated for removal, 30 are on Page, while one stands adjacent to Springs Road. Eversource has submitted a request to remove these trees due to the potential danger they pose to electrical wires along both roads. While many of the trees are diseased, some are simply too close to the lines, the utility contends.

Public Works Director David Manugian noted at the beginning that he had every expectation that all trees proposed for removal would pass. Experts from Eversource and the DPW have discussed and agreed upon the current list of trees, he said.

Edwards voiced her displeasure that BARC had not been looped into the tree removal proposal that had been discussed since last summer.

Edwards also pointed out that the two weeks between the meeting and the continued hearing on the 26th does not give members of the community ample time to see the trees, given difficulties with weather and health safety.

Jeff Cohen, Planning Board, responded, saying that “My concern is if we do get a really bad snowstorm, the longer the trees truly are in peril, the greater risk they pose to the town and the residents who lose power.”

Edwards also said that the trees had markings unfamiliar to her committee, as Eversource had used a different system to identify target trees. Planning Board member Amy Lloyd noted that the blue ribbons with which the trees had been marked were visible on most trees fairly easily.

Manugian added that, while BARC’s input is appreciated, the tree removal does not fall under its jurisdiction and therefore would not be, by itself, a deciding factor in the process.

Another speaker suggested burying the electrical lines along Page Road as a long-term solution, avoiding the need to remove healthy trees. Multiple members of the Planning Board and DPW noted that this plan would be extremely expensive, difficult to pass with the Select Board, and most of all would result in the cutting of healthy tree roots in the area.

Planning Board member Steve Hagan moved to approve the full list of trees for removal, contingent that the public hearing on Jan. 26 does not raise a compelling argument. The motion was not seconded.

The Planning Board gave the approval to remove three dead trees on Page Road. This will allow a tree removal crew working on Grove Street in Lexington (a continuation of Page Road) this week to take down these trees as well, saving time and alleviating the safety risk these trees pose to Eversource power lines.

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