SHIRLEY -- Two trees that the owners of a property at 86 Center Road petitioned the selectmen and the Planning Board to have taken down are headed for the scrap pile, having been determined dead or dying, respectively and dangerous in both instances by a professional arborist hired by the town.

One tree was presumed dead, with limbs threaded through power lines leading to the new house the petitioners, Bill and Janet Poitras, are building on the site. The other tree stands in the way of water-main access, Poitras told the two boards at a public hearing on the matter two weeks ago.

The hearing was continued to last Monday night pending the arborist's recommendation, which aligned with that of the property owner. The verdict: Both trees should go.

Selectmen concurred, voting Monday night to remove the trees.

But it wasn't quite that simple.

First, the board had to determine if the trees were town owned (rather than on private property), which they ultimately decided that they were, making it the town's responsibility to take them down.

Adding another curve, the Planning Board argued for replacing the trees with similar ones that would grow to become shade trees along the scenic route, part of the town's rural character that the board is tasked with preserving. According to member Barbara Yokum, who did some research into alternatives, the new trees would not grow as large as the ones they replace, minimizing future risk to power lines.


Options the arborist suggested -- Redbud, Kousa dogwood, Japanese tree lilac and Kwansan cherry -- are more shrubs than trees, the Planning Board said. Better to go with smaller oaks or maples.

After some discussion, member Janet Tice made a motion and her board voted to accept the measure.

Selectman Bryan Sawyer made a similar motion, adding authorization for Town Administrator Mike McGovern to come up with a replacement plan, as well as look into removing the trees. It passed unanimously.

Step one: call the power company, which probably won't take down the trees. If they are deemed risky to the lines, National Grid typically removes only the threatening limbs, board members said.

Most likely, the town will hire an outside contractor, because it wouldn't be safe for the DPW, officials said.

Also up in the air is whether the project must go to Town Meeting, presumably based on cost.