Published in the November 18, 2019 edition.


WAKEFIELD — For illegally cutting down trees in the Crystal Lake watershed area across from his home in early October, the town expects Sylvan Avenue resident Michael Thater to pay $9,500 for 30 trees to replace the 15 he removed at a 2-1 ratio. The sum also includes the cost of a professional landscaper to plant the trees.

The Town Council discussed the matter at length at its Oct. 28 meeting. Thater was present and was apologetic for his actions at the meeting and in a letter he sent to the Town Council.

“This was a grave mistake that I wish I could take back as I was unaware at the time of the ramifications of my actions,” Thater wrote. He explained that the trees that he cut down were Norway maples, an invasive species that is on the Massachusetts prohibited plants list. He said that it appeared that the Norway maples were choking out the native pines in the area across from his house.

“It was my belief that removing some of the invasive trees would let the native pine trees flourish again,” Thater wrote.

He also addressed a suggestion that he had cut the trees down to improve his view of Cristal Lake.

“This was most certainly not the case,” Thater insisted. “Any view is still blocked by the numerous pine trees, which I would never have considered harming as a native non-invasive species.”

In a letter to Thater, Town Council Thomas Mullen had explained that under state law, the town was entitled to triple the amount of the damages. Depending of the type and size, Mullen wrote, a single tree could cost anywhere from $300 to $3,000. After tripling, the total damages could amount to anywhere from $13,500 to $135,000.

But Thater told the Town Council that such costs “would be
a huge financial burden on my family.”

Last week, Town Councilors accepted a settlement package recommended of Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio and Tree Warden Dennis Fazio that totaled $9,500.

The 30 replacement trees would include a combination of 15 smaller white pines and deciduous trees, plus 15 larger deciduous trees (scarlet oaks, red oaks and birches) to be replanted in the affected area to blend in with the natural landscape. Any leftover trees can be planted elsewhere in town in areas of need.

The total cost of the 15 smaller trees would be $2,000. The larger trees would cost $4,500. The cost of a professional landscaper to plant the trees is $3,000, for a grand total of $9,500.

The recommended settlement was seen as a middle ground to make the town whole without overburdening Thater.

The Town Council voted 6-0 to approve the recommended settlement and authorized Maio to work out a payment schedule with Thater.