SHIRLEY –Selectmen and the Planning Board failed to reach consensus on Monday night on Bill and Janet Poitras’ application to remove two shade trees near their new house, now under construction at 86 Center Road. The boards must rule jointly because the trees in question shade the road and are within the town’s designated “scenic route.”
One tree is a large oak on town land at the end of the driveway. The tree is “infested with ants,” and presumed dead; its limbs pose a risk to power lines leading to his new house, Bill Poitras said.
The other tree stands between a “stub” installed by the Water Department and the foundation of the house, blocking access to a hook-up to town water, he said. Moving the hook-up would cost about $1,000 and could cause more trouble down the road as the tree grows and its roots extend, he said.
Paperwork was also cited as a problem. The Planning Board did not receive a copy of the application and had only second-hand information, Chairman Sarah Widing said. The board only knew of one tree, not two, she said.
Widing passed around pictures she took at the home, noting that the tree by the driveway sported live leaves. “It doesn’t look dead to me,” she said.
A protracted discussion followed about which tree was which and whether the big oak is, in fact, dead. The boards also ping-ponged ideas about the water main issue, why it happened and how to resolve it.
Selectmen Chairman Debra Flagg’s son, Zach Flagg, heads up the family-owned tree business that’s been operating in the area for three generations. She said her son pronounced the big old oak dead when he gave the property owner an estimate to take down the two trees. The town could face liability if it knows a tree is a hazard but doesn’t remove it, she said.
Planning Board member Janet Tice said she’d like a professional arborist to weigh in. She said it is her board’s responsibility to protect tree-shaded avenues that contribute to the town’s rural character. She said tree removal within the designated “scenic route” established by a 1975 Town Meeting vote should done by the book: Follow the application and review process set out in bylaws and if possible, get expert input.
Planning Board member Barbara Yokum suggested that, if both trees are removed, replacements can be planted. Poitras cautioned against planting trees where they’d eventually interfere with power lines.
And Tice still wanted an arborist’s diagnosis on the town-owned oak.
Poitras countered that, dead or not, the tree at the end of his driveway poses a risk to his new house: “If it falls on my new roof, will the town pay …?”
Selectman Enrico Cappucci suggested continuing the hearing, hiring an arborist to assess the town-owned tree and asking the Water Department if it can avoid axing the other one. Both boards approved.
The hearing will continue Aug. 27.