LYNNFIELD Fall Town Meeting overwhelming approved the Tree Preservation Bylaw on Monday night.

Planning Board Chairman Brian Charville said the Tree Bylaw, which appeared as Article 3, would give the board “an important new tool that will preserve the town’s character and the environment.”

Charville said the revised Tree Bylaw is completely different than the one that the 2020 Fall Town Meeting voted to indefinitely postpone. He said it will apply to four different categories, including new home construction.

“In 2020, only seven permits were pulled for new home construction,” said Charville.

Charville said the Tree Bylaw would apply to new subdivisions as well. He also said that the revised Tree Bylaw would apply to Site Plan Approval that would be used for multifamily developments such as apartment buildings. He also said the revised bylaw would apply to Special Permit requests pertaining to commercial projects, multifamily developments and nonconforming lots.

“If this bylaw is adopted, it will not apply to most homeowners at all,” said Charville.

Planning Board member Amy MacNulty said the Tree Bylaw would enhance property values, protect residents’ privacy and will protect the environment.

“Trees help reduce erosion and stormwater runoff,” said MacNulty. “Trees improve air quality and reduces heat by keeping the ground cooler. Trees also preserve plant and wildlife habitats. This is a not a new effort. In 2008, the Tree Committee was formed to address the issue of clear-cutting. At this moment in Lynnfield, there is no limitation on tree clearing besides wetland protection, Scenic Road and Scenic Tree guidelines.”

MacNulty recalled that the Planning and Conservation Department as well as the Planning Board have received phone calls and emails from concerned residents about trees getting cut down. She said the Planning Board and staff members have repeatedly told concerned citizens they do not have the power to limit or stop tree clearing from taking place.

“Over the last 10 years, Lynnfield has lost over 50 acres of tree canopy,” said MacNulty. “Was that really necessary? That is why we are putting the Tree Bylaw before Town Meeting today. We think we can develop a more thoughtful approach to property planning. We don’t want to hinder anybody’s ability to manage their trees.”

Charville said the Planning Board is unable to “twist a developer’s arm in order to prevent tree loss.” He noted that the developer of the Tuttle Lane subdivision off of Summer Street clear-cut hundreds of trees and is currently only planning on planting 27 new ones.

“This bylaw does not prohibit tree clearing,” said Charville. “What a developer would have to do is come before the Planning Board and town staff, and we would have a conversation with them about what they propose to remove in the tree yard of the lot. That is the existing zoning setback. If someone doing one of these four types of projects wants to take down a tree that is 6-inches or larger in the protected border, they would have two avenues if they choose to remove the trees at all. The developer would have to replace trees on their own or they would make a contribution to the town’s Tree Fund.”

While the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Finance Committee each unanimously voted to support Article 3, the Select Board voted 2-1 to recommend that the Tree Preservation Bylaw be indefinitely postponed. During the Select Board’s meeting before Town Meeting, Chairman Dick Dalton supported the Tree Bylaw while Select Board members Joe Connell and Phil Crawford wanted Article 3 to be indefinitely postponed and head back to the drawing board a second time.

Bourque Road resident Melanie Lovell, who is a member of the Tree Committee, urged Town Meeting to approve Article 3.

“The idea that trees are valuable to our community is not a controversial one,” said Lovell. “They clean the air, they reduce stormwater runoff and provide food and habitats for animals. If you are familiar with Planning Board meetings, you know that trees are a constant topic of discussion. The Planning Board lacks the tools to protect these natural resources. We can change that tonight. The scope of the bylaw is extremely limited but if it passes, Lynnfield will have some control over future subdivisions and what new construction will look like. The Planning Board is coming to us with an idea that will help protect our town.”

Patrice Lane resident Pat Campbell agreed.

“Our Planning Board and Planning and Conservation Department personnel have worked very hard to make the Tree Bylaw what Town Meeting wanted last year,” said Campbell. “They clearly heard what the concerns were. We need trees to help us with climate resiliency for future generations.”

Campbell said one of the factors that inspired her to buy her house was that her property includes a “beautiful backdrop” of trees.

“Trees add value to your home,” said Campbell. “If you are not adding a major part to your house, you aren’t going to be affected at all. And you won’t be affected if a tree falls over during a storm. You can certainly have an arborist clean it up. I think it’s time we do something to protect the character of our town. Trees are certainly part of it.”

After a woman in the audience called the question, Fall Town Meeting voted to end debate on Article 3. The legislative body then voted 162-7 to approve the Tree Preservation Bylaw. After the vote, the bylaw’s supporters started clapping to celebrate its passage.

Charville was pleased Fall Town Meeting overwhelming approved the Tree Bylaw. He noted that it will take effect immediately.

“We are gratified that everyone at Town Meeting recognized the bylaw was a great product and how needed it was,” said Charville in an interview with the Villager after Fall Town Meeting. “We received a lot of really constructive feedback from the public that led to the bylaw that won resoundingly tonight. The process took two years and the Planning Board discussed it at 27 meetings, but it resulted in a great product that a huge majority got behind.”

Charville also thanked the Tree Committee for helping get the bylaw passed.

“The Planning Board is really grateful for the support the Tree Committee has provided the entire way,” said Charville. “They helped with flyers, launched an information campaign, went door-to-door and got out the vote. They pushed the bylaw over the finish line tonight.”

Rezoning proposal withdrawn

Town Moderator Joe Markey announced at the beginning of Fall Town Meeting that Mirabeau Lane resident Richard Ripley withdrew Article 4, which was a citizens’ petition submitted on behalf of developer Angus Bruce. Article 4 sought to rezone the Richardson Green property, 1425 Main St., from Single Residence D to Elderly Housing, which would have allowed Bruce to build a 55-and-over townhouse development comprised of 54 units.

Charville requested that Fall Town Meeting vote to indefinitely postpone Article 4, which passed unanimously.

Additional articles

Fall Town Meeting approved Article 1, which appropriated $3,173.68 from Free Cash in order to pay overdue bills from a prior fiscal year.

Giugliano Terrace resident Gill Giugliano asked why electronic voting was not being utilized at Fall Town Meeting after the legislative body approved it several years ago.

“I really don’t want to go back to a voice vote or a hand count,” said Giugliano.

Markey explained that a vendor recently informed local officials that it would have cost the town over $10,000 to rent the electronic voting equipment for Monday’s session.

“We knew that the warrant was only going to have a few articles,” said Markey. “We priced it out and due to COVID, the price increased significantly to over $10,000 for one night. We didn’t think it would be prudent to spend that much taxpayer money for a few items. I think we will return to it in the future.”

Voters also approved Article 2, which transferred $223,604.30 in order to supplement certain accounts in the current fiscal year 2022 budget.

Campbell asked why Article 2 included $40,000 for the Meeting House.

Town Administrator Rob Dolan said the funds would be used for the ongoing renovation of the Pope-Richard Lynnfield Historical Centre as well as purchasing new tables and chairs for the Meeting House.

“We are also going to buy a new refrigerator and a new oven for the Meeting House,” said Dolan.