Friday, November 5, 2004
Pine tree removal "way bigger than a tree"
A long-running dispute between Partridge Lane neighbors over removal of a pine tree in the town's right-of-way was resolved with the Selectmen voting to allow removal. Several Selectmen had visited the tree, and a report to the board by arborist John Bakewell was cited as evidence both for and against allowing the tree to be cut.
Jay Acquaviva, requesting removal, pointed to the arborist's note that the driveway has impinged on roots, leading to "an increased risk of failure." He added, "This is not a healthy tree," and asked the Selectmen to allow him to remove it at his own expense. "It's no specimen, and not historical . . . I don't think my request is unreasonable." He produced a petition that he had brought around the neighborhood, noting "Everybody willingly signed this. No one objected."
Peter Burn, who had originally believed the tree was on his property, said he "defended the tree because it has been there a hundred years and is part of our neighborhood." He alluded to threats from the Acquavivas and said he had tried to compromise by offering to cut out branches. He said he feared that every truck coming down the road was coming to remove the tree, "Truthfully, I feel as if my home has been invaded. It has been a terrible year." He then added, "This issue is way bigger than a tree." Acquaviva responded that threats had come from the Burns as well.
As accusations of inside influence on the tree warden, infringement on property rights, and threatened incarceration began to fly, chair Tim Hult quelled the discussion. "This is the worst part of the Board of Selectmen job," said Selectman John Ballantine of the need to rule between neighbors. Although the town has no written policy regarding tree removal, Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie said Tree Warden Gary Davis's practice is "not to cut down a healthy tree unless there's a safety issue." Selectman Tony Allison agreed with the policy of "do no harm" and pointed to the arborist's report that he "would not rate this tree as being exceptionally hazardous."
Selectman Doug Stevenson noted, "This is a tree that should have come down [when the house was built]. We have a homeowner willing to take it down; there is some hazard, and it's not particularly aesthetic." He said he would not object to having it removed. Selectman Deb Belanger believed that had a neighbor not been opposed, "We would have agreed to allow removal." Belanger reminded Burn, "It's not your tree," and noted it is not even visible from the windows of Burn's house. She concluded, "I don't see a particular value in this tree sitting on top of a stone wall." Hult agreed, and the Selectmen voted three to one (with Ballantine abstaining) for removal.
Hult concluded, "The truest thing I heard tonight was, 'This is not just about a tree.' This is about a couple of people having trouble living next to each other." He urged the neighbors, "Let's just get beyond this particular issue."
© 2004 The