LYNNFIELD — After a year in the making, the revised Tree Preservation Bylaw is headed to Fall Town Meeting on Monday night.
The Tree Preservation Bylaw will appear as Article 3 at Fall Town Meeting, which will take place on Monday, Oct. 18, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Lynnfield Middle School auditorium. A quorum of 175 voters is needed in order to conduct the town’s business. Attendees will also be required to wear masks at Town Meeting.
In an interview with the Villager, Planning Board Chairman Brian Charville recalled that last year’s Fall Town Meeting voted to indefinitely postpone an earlier version of the Tree Bylaw that was more restrictive than the current one being proposed. The Planning Board requested that bylaw be indefinitely postponed due to residents expressing concerns about it during the lead up to Town Meeting.
Charville said the revised Tree Bylaw will apply to four different categories: New home construction, new subdivisions, Site Plan Approval applications and Special Permit requests. The general bylaw will require a simple majority vote at Town Meeting and not a two-thirds vote because it is not a zoning change.
“The Planning Board looked at what tree clearing situations had been occurring in town that led us to propose a Tree Preservation Bylaw in the first place,” said Charville. “Those four scenarios were the main common dominators where a lot of tree clearing had occurred. We thought that this bylaw should start at those activities where developers would be required to provide some mitigation. If this bylaw gets adopted, it would not apply in any way to a typical homeowner undertaking typical home maintenance or property upkeep.”
If Fall Town Meeting approves the Tree Bylaw, Charville said developers will have two options to pursue moving forward. Under the first option, developers would have to plant new trees on the property. If developers decide against planting new trees, the bylaw would require them to make a contribution to the town’s Tree Fund, which would be used to plant trees in other parts of town.
Planning and Conservation Director Emilie Cademartori informed the Villager that DPW Director/Tree Warden John Tomasz will be tasked with “developing a price scale for replacing trees based on the town’s actual cost” if Fall Town Meeting adopts the bylaw.
“That is why we didn’t put an exact price in the bylaw,” said Cademartori.
“Under the bylaw, the tree warden would be tasked with keeping a current market price list of replacement trees for different species,” said Charville.
When asked if the revised Tree Bylaw would apply to a homeowner who wants to build a new pool or a new deck, Charville said those types of projects would not apply unless a Special Permit is required for a specific project. The bylaw would not apply to any hazardous trees that need to be removed due to safety reasons.
Charville recalled that the Planning Board has discussed the Tree Bylaw at 27 meetings over a two-year period. After the 2020 Fall Town Meeting voted to indefinitely postpone the first version of the bylaw, he said the Planning Board launched an outreach campaign in order to listen to residents’ concerns.
“We made it a point to reach out to each one of those people and groups to hear any concerns they might have and any improvements they might have so we could incorporate those suggestions into the draft we had been working on,” said Charville. “We invited those folks to our meetings, especially on Zoom, where folks attended and spoke. I think we have addressed every one of those concerns that were brought to us.”
Charville said a number of residents have expressed concerns about tree clearing to the Planning and Conservation Department over the last few years. He said the new Tuttle Lane subdivision that is currently under construction off of Summer Street and the Sagamore Place subdivision that is currently being built on upper Main Street has resulted in a number of trees getting cut down.
“The Planning Board and Planning and Conservation staff have heard citizens’ concerns,” said Charville. “We agree with a majority of them that there must be a better way to allow development activity to occur, but also preserve trees as part of that process. We have all seen this movie before where developers come in and clear-cut trees out of expediency. If the bylaw gets adopted, it would encourage a conversation between the Planning Board and a developer.”
Charville said the revised Tree Bylaw would apply to the proposed five-lot Vallis Way subdivision being eyed off of Lowell Street if Town Meeting approves the bylaw on Monday night.
“As recently as the Planning Board’s continued public hearing on Sept. 29, we heard concerns from abutters and the Tree Committee about potential tree clearing in conjunction with that project,” said Charville. “Town Counsel Tom Mullen has told the Planning Board that if the Tree Preservation Bylaw is adopted by Town Meeting on Oct. 18, the bylaw would require tree mitigation for the Vallis Way project.”
There are currently tree bylaws being used in other communities such as Arlington, Concord, Lexington, Newton, Wellesley and Weston. Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) Senior Land Use Planner Ella Wise recently informed the Planning and Conservation Department that other cities and towns regulate tree clearing in their respective rules and regulations for subdivisions.
While Charville and the Planning Board support the proposed Tree Preservation Bylaw, Bourque Road resident Paul Marchionda said he opposes it at last week’s Select Board meeting. The Marchionda and Associates engineering firm owner has represented a number of developers and homeowners in raze-and-rebuild projects where a number of trees have been clear-cut. He is currently representing Lynnfield native Stephen Marchand, who is looking to raze his family’s old home at 75 Oakridge Terrace and build a new house.
“Stephen has a unique lot that is long and narrow,” said Marchionda. “Due to the way the bylaw is written, he will have to either plant new trees or pay into the Tree Fund. There is no room for them and he would be stuck paying for them. He could lose thousands and thousands of dollars in order to live his dream of taking down the family home and building a new home in Lynnfield.”
Marchionda said the Tree Preservation Bylaw is “unnecessary.”
“I think it is a rush to judgment and over regulation,” said Marchionda. “I don’t think we need it. Stephen is talking to tree companies in order to get the trees on his property cut in case the bylaw passes. He is planning on cutting a lot more trees than he has to just to be safe. It should require a two-thirds Town Meeting vote and not a simple majority. It’s too easy to stack the deck.”
Charville disagreed with Marchionda’s viewpoint.
“To call this a rush to judgment is ridiculous,” said Charville during the Select Board’s meeting. “The Planning Board has been working on this bylaw for more than two years. I have repeatedly talked to Mr. Marchionda about it, and he has frequently appeared at our meetings. I said to him several times what can we do to get his support for this bylaw, and he won’t answer me. It is time that we stand up as a town to the development lobby and do something. The problem exists, clear-cuts are happening and it looks abhorrent. It’s gross.”
In the wake of Marchionda’s concerns, the Select Board decided to wait until the board’s meeting before Town Meeting to make a recommendation about Article 3.
Charville told the Villager that he hopes Fall Town Meeting will approve the Tree Preservation Bylaw on Monday.
“The Planning Board encourages anyone who supports tree preservation and preserving the town’s natural landscape to come to Town Meeting and support this bylaw,” said Charville. “We need everybody’s support.”