Friday, April 16, 2010
Benfield Farms Scenic Roads Hearing concluded
The Planning Board and Tree Warden Gary Davis approved the removal of six trees within the South Street right-of-way to accommodate the access roads to the proposed Benfield Farms senior affordable housing development. The housing is to be on town land developed by the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH). At the April 12 Public Hearing, NOAH representatives Toby Kramer and Mark Beaudry presented drawings of the frontage area indicating the location of the trees to be removed and of stone wall sections to be relocated. Planning Board Chair David Freedman supplemented the graphics with a color panoramic photograph of the streetscape. The stone wall will be maintained as a “farmer’s stone wall” characteristic of the area.
South Street is designated a scenic roadway and trees that are within the right-of way and are larger than four-inch diameter four-feet above ground cannot be removed without a public hearing and authorization of the Planning Board and the Tree Warden.
South Street residents Alan Carpenito, Ray Kubacki and Juergen Lemmerman voiced their concerns about the project and specifically about the visibility of the building from South Street and from abutters’ perspective. Carpenito said, “At Town Meeting we were shown a farm scene with trees visible in back; what we have now is a massive three-story building. I don’t know to what extent the Planning Board can address that. The building is 45 feet tall.” Freedman responded, “It is not within our purview to address whether it is built.”
Kubacki asked, “How do they define maintaining the rural vista?” Kramer offered, “We could look at some low-level plantings to soften the view.” Arborist John Bakewell, who attended at the invitation of the board, said that the low growth was dominated by invasive bittersweet and should be removed. Freedman added, “Screening would have to be dealt with within the Zoning Board of Appeals.”
Board member Michael Epstein said, “My vote should not be seen as absolute approval on the width of the (access) roadway [proposed to be 24 feet wide]. But even if the roadway were 18 feet wide, the same trees would have to come down.”
Moving on to what compensatory plantings the board could request, the decision was made to require at least eight red maples, or equivalent, of one-and-a-half to two-inch diameter, to be planted within 50-feet of the center line of the south entrance and within 60 feet of the north entrance. Responding to questions regarding the tree diameter, Bakewell said that the size of the root-ball dictates what can be planted close to the stone wall.
In closing the public hearing, Freedman said that a Planning Board meeting is scheduled for April 26 at 7:30 p.m. and will be devoted exclusively to the board’s report to the Zoning Board of Appeals on the Benfield project on aspects other than those involved with the Scenic Roadway and Shade Tree hearing. ∆
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