Greenwich Tree Conservancy Responds to Metro North Clear-Cutting in Riverside

By: GREENWICHFREEPRESS | December 21, 2020

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Submitted by Cheryl Dunson, Greenwich Tree Conservancy President

The Greenwich Tree Conservancy shares the alarm of residents protesting the recent clear-cutting of trees along the railroad tracks bordering the Riverside School and reflected in the residents’ Change.org petition available online.

This is a continuation of clear-cutting that occurred along exits 3-4 and now to 5-6. This clear-cutting policy, reportedly to protect the catenary poles and tracks from falling trees, has devastating effects on communities. These “safety” policies have created other issues by eliminating the existing benefits of these wooded corridors for possible risk.

The wooded Right of Way (ROW) area adjacent to the tracks provides many benefits including screening from the trains, noise reduction, air quality remediation, stormwater runoff protection, wildlife habitat, and a safety barrier. After the clear-cutting of ROWs in the Connecticut towns of Falls Village and Cornwall, a pesticide application program was used to maintain “infrastructure safety”. Chemical pesticide extends the negative impacts to the Town and the environment and, for coastal communities in particular, to Long Island Sound.

The Greenwich Tree Conservancy is proud of our partnership with the Town to preserve and enhance Greenwich’s tree canopy. Since our founding in 2007, we have planted thousands of trees throughout town, including on all our public school grounds. While we deeply regret the reason for needing to plant more trees at Riverside School, we are happy to work in partnership with the Town to help mitigate on the school property. However, the municipality should not be the only ones shouldering the burden created by ConDOT – they too should be required to mitigate along the right of way.

Greenwich depends upon the expertise of our Town Tree Warden Dr. Greg Kramer, supported by our First Selectman Camillo, to help protect the town from wanton clear-cutting. While our local officials are using their influence to call for judicious tree removal, the GTC will work with the Town to remediate as much as possible. A large portion of the rail lines in Connecticut are owned by the State, and should be managed appropriately. The State and UCONN have worked together to develop the Stormwise program, which is designed “to tackle the challenge of maintaining the aesthetic appeal of forested Connecticut byways while reducing the potential of tree-cause damage to our infrastructure during severe storms.” This valuable work could be applied to our railroad corridor.

It is sadly ironic that at a time when there is widespread acknowledgement of the importance of trees in combating the many ill effects of climate change, that ConDOT/Metro North are allowed to remove these valuable woodland assets with impunity. The Greenwich Tree Conservancy urges Governor Lamont to send a clear message that trees and transportation can co-exist and direct ConDOT, Metro-North and DEEP to adopt Stormwise or similar refined approach for managing vegetation in our transportation and utility corridors. Put simply, indiscriminate clear-cutting is deforestation, not vegetation management and should not be labeled nor accepted as such! Successful vegetation management mitigates risk, while ensuring that our urban and edge forests are conserved, restored and made more resilient.

Cheryl Dunson
President

Now we’re shaming:’ Rallyprotests Metro-North’s tree-cutting in Riverside

By: Ken Borsuk | Column | Updated: Dec. 15, 2020 8:10 p.m.
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Protesters say too many trees have been removed from the area near the railroad tracks in the Riverside section of Greenwich on Dec. 15, 2020.

Photo: Ken Borsuk / Hearst Connecticut Media /

GREENWICH — Holding up signs and chanting “save our trees,” a group of residents gathered near Riverside School on Tuesday morning to protest Metro-North Railroad’s clear-cutting in the area as part of a maintenance project.

Since last week, work crews have been cutting down trees along the railroad tracks. The unhappy residents said they had unsuccessfully reached out to the town and the state to stop Metro-North.

“We’ve tried negotiating, now we’re shaming,” town resident Jane Brash said at the protest.

The trees were targeted for safety reasons, according to Metro-North officials. The goal is keep branches and trees along Metro-North’s right of way from falling onto the tracks. The tree-trimming program has been accelerated, Metro-North spokesperson Meredith Daniels said, before winter hits, when fallen trees and branches often disrupt train service.

“We wanted to bring attention to the situation and hopefully something will happen,” said Brash, one of the protest organizers. “People saw what happened when Metro-North clear-cut the trees along I-95 between Exits 3 and 4. It looks horrible. We care about our town. We care about the environment. We care about our wildlife. We care about our children.

”They are also frustrated by the lack of communication with Metro-North and its plan, if any, to plant new trees, she said.

“We understand that they are concerned about trees falling onto the tracks and disrupting service, but that doesn’t mean they have to cut down every tree,” Brash said.

Brash also said that removing the trees will increase noise in the area.The noise from cars on the highway and trains on the tracks has“increased dramatically” without the buffer of trees, town resident Mary Childs said.

“It seems like their strategy isn’t just to prune trees or cut down the dead ones, but to cut down every tree. They are clear-cutting everything,”Childs said. “We have tried everything to reach them. We have called and reached out to everyone we can and there has been no response. And our understanding is they’re going to continue this all along the tracks.

”First Selectman Fred Camillo said he has talked to residents and Metro-North, even walking the property with them.

It was unfortunate he did not receive more advance notice of the work,Camillo said. But there is little the town can do because Metro-North owns the property, he said.

“I understand they want to be heard by Metro-North, but we can’t control what happens on this property,” Camillo said when asked for comment. “Any trees or branches that could come down onto the tracksor the power lines or the nearby playground are going to be taken down.

”By working with Metro-North now, Camillo said he and Tree Warden Gregory Kramer are trying to save some of the trees.

Kramer said the town and Metro-North are in “constant contact.” He met with its workers at the site Tuesday and was told no new trees would be planted on the Metro-North property.

However, there will be planting on the school side of the property,completed through a public/private partnership that Camillo and Kramer put together.

“We will do whatever we can to get them the coverage they want there,”Camillo said.

During the meeting, Metro-North agreed to not remove nearly 20 trees and shrubs, Kramer said. He is hoping to walk farther along the line of the planned work in the coming weeks to save more trees.

About 25 people attended the rally outside the school, including members of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy, the Riverside Association and the Riverside Garden Club.

Cheryl Dunson, president of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy’s board of directors, said the protest was about more than just the aesthetic value of the trees. It’s also about losing their environmental benefits.

“Instead of mindless clear-cutting, there ought to be judicious removal,”Dunson said. “There should be a real assessment first before they just come in and start cutting down trees.”

She said it’s unfortunate that the clear-cutting is happening near theschool, “because at the same time everyone is talking about the environment and climate change and planting trees, they’re removing an asset,” she said.

“Metro-North sees these trees as an obstacle, not a community asset we should try and manage. What kind of an example does that set for the children?” Dunson said.

An online petition to save the trees has been set up at Change.org. As of Tuesday afternoon, over 775 people had signed it.

The petition calls for residents to “use your voice to tell our elected officials to continue to fight for our environment and our town” and speak out against the “decimation of trees and wooded land bordering the railroad.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

Greenwich Tree Conservancy celebrates its 2020 Treasured Tree winners with tree stories

By: Greenwich Sentinel | Column | October 29, 2020
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By: Anne W. Semmes

The winning trees are!! A Copper Beech, a Horse Chestnut, a Red Tip Photinia, a Katsura, a Sugar Maple, and a Colorado Spruce! They now wear nameplates as chosen by the Greenwich Tree Conservancy (GTC) in its second year of celebrating the winning entries of Treasured Trees on private properties across town.

But this pandemic year there was no festive Treasured Tree gathering at the Sam Bridge Nursery – instead the GTC principals, including founding chairman Peter Malkin, invited the winning tree owners to share their tree stories virtually. Presiding was GTC President Cheryl Dunson who kicked off with a tree lover’s quote, “Someone is sitting in the shade today, because somebody planted a tree long ago,” with her adding, “Because there were others who also nurtured that tree along the way.”

The six winning tree nurturers were introduced after the Town’s Tree Warden Dr. Gregory Kramer shared his own tree stories. Kramer found his own treasured tree growing up in Manhattan, “a 350-year-old Tulip tree that to this day resides at its current location and is thought to be the oldest living organism in the metropolitan area.” Kramer arrived at his post in Greenwich already with tree connections through Pinetum founder, Colonel Montgomery, “having worked at his property down in Coral Gables [Fla.] and done my research there. I really got a sense of who he was and what he was inspiring to do, and what trees would he be interested in.”

How those six winning trees were chosen was explained by the two tree judges, Sam Bridge, “multiple generation owner of Sam Bridge Nursery and Greenhouses, and John Conte, renown horticulturist and landscaper…both champions of conservation and the environment,” so introduced by Sue Baker, GTC Advisory Board Co-chair.

“We use these various categories,” told Conte, “Size, age, what we call pedigree… the uniqueness of the specific tree, its ornamental value…is the tree well suited for where it is.” Lastly, its history, “and that category has the most points.” Sam Bridge confirmed, “What it really came down to was the story of why that tree is treasured by the person presenting it, and that was the cool part of the whole thing, why you love that tree.”

The great Copper Beech on Field Point Road is familiar to many a passing motorist on their way to Town Hall across the street. For the last 75 of its surely 100 years or more, it has graced the front lawn of the First Lutheran Church and provided shade for Sunday Schoolers shared the Church’s Amy Young. It is also embraced by next door office workers who “feel they’re in a tree house,” she reported. The Rev. Evan Scamman spoke of his appreciation of Frank [Rusty] Parker of Parker Associates LLC (located in that next-door building), “for helping out greatly in the care and maintenance of the tree.”

More praise for the Copper Beech came from neighbor, Peter Malkin. “It’s a wonderful thing every day when we go out, we see that beautiful Copper Beech.” He noted that Rusty Parker is a GTC board member.

The Horse Chestnut is located in Rock Ridge -its owner Kirsten Galef was unable to be present. Her note praised her “special tree” for its “white blossom in the spring, and in the fall the chestnuts provide a feast for our squirrels.” Conti weighed in with, “You can see that tree is like a sculpture, like a fountain frozen in time. It’s just a beautiful tree.”

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Riverside residents Wendy and Jim Enelow had entered their winning tree as a Parrotia tree but after some research it was identified as a Red Tip Photinia. “We thank you for honoring our tree and telling us what it is called,” said Wendy Enelow. “We just love this tree because it’s an evergreen and keeps its leaves all year.” Judge Conte added, “This tree just knocked us out when we saw it. It’s more of a southern growing tree. You must have an interesting climate there.”

On Glenville Road resides another less known and winning tree, a Katsura. owned by Mary Shaw and Rob Marks. “We inherited the tree when we bought the house in 1989,” said Marks, “It’s just majestic. We’ve installed some spotlights underneath it…and on a dark night it’s almost as if you have your own heaven above this with the leaves like little stars.”

“At this time of year, it turns a rich yellow,” said Mary Shaw. “And when the sun comes through it’s just a glorious yellow, and then the leaves fall to the ground and make a carpet of yellow.”

“Is this the tree,” asked Malkin of the Tree Warden, “that you are replacing the Copper Beeches we’re losing on Greenwich Common?” “That’s correct,” said Kramer. “It gives you a similar form and grows in a somewhat similar fashion.” He added, “When I was talking before about pedigree, really nothing ranks higher than Katsura.

It’s got great ornamental value in every season.”

A Sugar Maple familiar to many that towers before the offices of the Greenwich Land Trust (GLT) on Round Hill Road was number five of the six winners. Speaking for it was GLT Conservation Outreach Manager, Dan Brubaker. “One of the neat things about it is it gets used every day – it provides shade all summer for our Youth Corps when they’re having lunches. With COVID this summer we’ve had a lot of meetings out there underneath the tree.”

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What age might that accommodating Maple Brubaker be he was asked. At least 150 years old was his answer.
Conte agreed, “It’s in its second half of life. Sugar Maples that are 50 years old or so would have a very oval rounded shape. This one has maxed out. It’s just spread out to full height – you really don’t see sugar maples bigger than this.”

Perhaps the most passionate testimony of tree treasuring came with the sixth tree winning Colorado Spruce. Owner Joan Stewart Pratt lives on Mallard Drive in the Milbrook area, where her tall Spruce is said to be seeable from the Post Road across from the Greenwich High School football field. “It used to be our Christmas tree in our living room about 30 years ago,” said Pratt, wearing her Santa hat, “And my late mother and I planted it together.” She cited the significance a spruce tree had in her family – with her mother’s Greek heritage. “The spruce tree according to Greek mythology represents constant eternal life, and was referred to as the tree of birth, and that the scented needles mean resilience and strength. So, during these challenging and uncertain times now more than ever we need to know that resilience, strength and love, is what is important in life.

Private Property Owners: You CAN protect your trees from unwanted removal by Eversource

The Greenwich Tree Conservancy recently heard from a resident whose neighbor was trying to save her private trees from extensive pruning by Eversource. The neighbor did not know what rights she had, and the trees were “butchered”. We often are asked what can be done to protect the tree which shades your property and adds to its esthetic, economic and health value.

Eversource pruned tree

When trees are on private property, residents have the right to tell Eversource what is acceptable to them. The best idea is to say you want to be there when they do the work.  While Eversource has a guideline to clear ground to sky and 8 feet from the lines (UPZ) as they do in many towns, this is not Greenwich’s policy. Nor can Eversource automatically take the tree down if it is not a public safety issue. They often say it’s a safety issue but they are speaking of safety to their lines, not safety to the public. They do have the right to prune the tree if it is currently interfering with the power lines or will be imminently. Eversource’s contracted tree service is Lewis Tree Service. They should prune in a careful way which they will do if you are present when the work is being done.

If a tree abutting your property is in the Town right-of-way, Eversource must obtain a permit from the Town Tree Warden for pruning or removal by filing a written application and must give 15 days notice to an abutting property owner prior to pruning or removal in the UPZ (Utility Protection Zone) and within the public right-of-way.

The Town Tree Warden must issue a decision 10 days from receiving an abutting property owner objection or request for modification, provided a requested consultation has taken place. The property owner or Eversource may appeal the Town Tree Warden decision to PURA (Public Utilities Regulatory Authority).

The Tree Conservancy has published a brochure, “What Are My Tree Rights Relating to Public Utilities?” that is available at Town Hall or can be viewed on our website www.greenwichtreeconservancy. Don’t feel powerless when confronted with Eversource!

Greenwich Tree Conservancy Puts the Green in Outdoor Dining on the Ave

Letter submitted by JoAnn Messina, Executive Director, Greenwich Tree Conservancy

The Greenwich Tree Conservancy applauds the Board of Selectmen and numerous departments within Greenwich government for creating a pedestrian and outdoor dining area at the lower end of Greenwich Avenue.The Tree Conservancy partners with many of these departments including the town Tree Division of Parks and Recreation, the Department of PublicWorks and most recently the Planning and Zoning Commission.

In addition to these departments, the Police and Fire Departments were also part of the planning effort to ensure a smooth and safe transition to a pedestrian mall.

We are proud to be part of this initiative by gifting the town 15 Crape Myrtle trees that have been planted in planters along the Avenue and later will be planted along town roads.

Greenwich is fortunate to have governmental officials who support the Tree Conservancy’s mission to plant, preserve and protect our urban forest which benefits our real estate values as well as our health and well-being.Projects such as greening town parking lots, labeling trees to create our Town Arboretum, plantings at schools for Arbor Day celebrations and our Treasured Trees program, assist in this mission.

Let us continue to unite in future efforts to preserve and enhance Greenwich’s urban forest.

Sincerely,
JoAnn Messina, Executive Director

New Walking Path Expands Walking Experience in Binney Park

By: GREENWICHFREEPRESS | May 26, 2020

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While not currently a full loop yet, this first section will be added on to later in the year. Presently one can start walking the trail where Arch Street and Wesskum Wood Rd intersect. The trail meanders southward as far as the playground and then moves along the bottom of the park over to the stream and spillway on the East side of Binney.

Where the stone-dust trail ends, walkers have the option of either returning the way they came or continuing up along the park road back to Wesskum Wood Road. It is also an option to cross the stream and walk up the grassy area which is where the next section of pathway will eventually be added.

A principal asset the new pathway provides is pedestrian safety. Until now, anyone walking in the South end of Binney, on the West side along Arch Street, either must walk on the grass or on Arch Street itself. The new pedestrian walkway meanders away from the road and skirts the playing fields. Among other features it provides easy access to the restrooms and fenced playground.

Dr. Greg Kramer, Superintendent of Parks and Trees, believes the stone-dust, which is permeable, will be an asset

“It offers an easy walking surface and has proven to be long lasting surface at places like Greenwich Point where a pathway honoring former resident Kit Warren has been in place for some ten plus years,” he said.

The Binney Park Advisory Committee (BPAC), a group of volunteer residents, has been completing improvements in Binney for the last year. They work in conjunction with the Parks Department staff headed Dr. Kramer and Field Supervisor Darrin Wigglesworth. Jonathan Fasone, Binney Park Supervisor, and his group of employees, based in the South end of Binney, has been instrumental in accomplishing many of the projects.

Among the improvements, noted by BPAC co-Chairs, Nancy Chapin and Peter Uhry, have been the restoration of the skating hut on the island in the pond. Last fall, the building was stabilized, a new terrace with benches was constructed and extensive landscaping was accomplished.

Additionally, new plantings have been installed in front of the restrooms near the playing fields in the South end. A new terrace is being considered here when additional Park funds or sufficient donations from residents allow it to be built.

Revised plantings, where Arch Street and Sound Beach Avenue meet, were initiated recently and additional plantings along both sides of the pond in the North end are to be accomplished later in the year. Started last summer, several flower beds and added shrubs were installed following the pond’s dredging.

Nancy Chapin, who in addition to her work on BPAC also serves on the Board of Parks & Recreation commented, “We have an extraordinary committee of a dozen doers. They include local landscape architects Bill Rutherford and Frank O’Gorman, Joanne Messina from the Greenwich Tree Conservancy and Mary Hull from Greenwich Green & Clean.

Peter Uhry has been a longtime supporter of improving Binney and deserves credit for getting this group together. Lynn Davenport, Linnea Stenberg and Lisa Beebe all bring their gardening expertise to the committee. Dr. Greg Kramer and Darrin Wigglesworth have been so supportive and have spurred along our projects allowing us to get a lot done in a short time.”

Nancy noted that, this summer, the BPAC will be seeking volunteers to help establish a Friends of Binney Park and do volunteer work. Resident participation will help achieve future improvements, not only in the Park itself but in the Hillside Annex and Binney Kitchel Nature Preserve which are lesser known sections of the Binney complex.

New Haven Register

Environmentalists, legislators,residents fight against UItrimming, removing trees

Clare Dignan Jan. 11, 2020 HAMDEN

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A crew from Lewis Tree Service cut down a large sycamore tree during United Illuminatingtree trimming and removal on Grovers Avenue in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport in2015.
Photo: Hearst Connecticut Media file

HAMDEN — Environmental groups, legislators and residents all areobjecting to United Illuminating’s program aimed at trimming orremoving trees without consent from towns or residents.Under UI’s standard tree pruning/removal program — Utility

Protection Zone work — a property owner has the right to object totree work or ask to modify it, but the utility can remove the tree ifthe property owner doesn’t object, provided the utility has therequired permit from the municipality’s tree warden.

However, the law gives flexibility to utility companies to addresstrees coming into contact with wires or ones that show signs of burning.

State statute allows a utility company to forgo the permit requirement and notification to property owners when pruning orremoving a tree “if any part of a tree is in direct contact with anenergized electrical conductor or has visible signs of burning.

”The electric company, a subsidiary of Avangrid, cites the statute ona door hanger used specifically for these cases — the Targeted RiskManagement program — which it began in January of last year,according to Avangrid spokesman Ed Crowder.

UI’s standardvegetation management notification package includes options forconsent, objection and modification.Many objecting to the TRM program said the practice underminesthe municipal tree warden’s authority and doesn’t follow the spiritor intention of the exception.In letters to the state’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority — whichoversees the rates and services of utilities, hears complaints andreviews compliance — many are asking the agency stop UI fromimplementing the TRM program.“It takes away the right of the tree warden and the town to have anysay in what happens to our trees,” Hamden Alliance for Trees

member Diane Hoffman said.

State Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said in commentssubmitted to PURA that as one of the legislators primarilyresponsible for crafting the statute, the intent of the “directcontact” language wasn’t to allow utilities to circumvent notifyingproperty owners and tree wardens.

D’Agostino, along with state Reps. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, andJosh Elliot, D-Hamden, told PURA in a letter that the agencyshouldn’t allow UI to implement the program without evaluation orapproval since it’s intended for emergency situations.

“UI should not be the sole decider on tree removal withoutconsulting with tree wardens, town leaders or residents,” they saidin their letter. “UI has economic interest in removing as many treesas possible as quickly as possible, but this interest should not be thesole determining factor. The public also has an interest in bothaccess to reliable electricity as well as the benefits of having asmany healthy trees in their community as possible.

”Hamden recently ordered UI to stop all vegetation managementbecause of resident concerns.

No Tree Warden Oversight

Hamden’s consulting arborist Geoff Harris said the town wouldprefer to have eyes on all tree work. Harris said UI’s right toperform the work doesn’t mean it is doing so everywhere, but he’sskeptical.“They’re good guys trying to do the job correctly and the problemwe’re having is they have a limb on a wire and they want to do 8-10-

15 (clearance pruning), and if they want to do that they have to talkto me,” he said. “I want to be able to see the tree first and that’s thebottom line.”

Harris said the new specifications have caused a problem in whichcrews are asked to trim everything in utility protection zone, whichisn’t a good arborist practice.

Fairfield Tree Warden Jeff Minder said trees are part of a town’sinfrastructure and especially important to Fairfield. If utilities arepruning without consultation of a municipality’s arborist, the crewcould be leaving the tree aesthetically unappealing or structurallyunhealthy, he said.

“We definitely welcome the trimming program but we’d like it to betransparent,” Minder said. Without consultation with residents ortree wardens, UI will set the pruning standard and do what’snecessary to get the line clearance, he said.

Minder said he doesn’t have reason to believe that they’ll only trimwhat’s necessary and if they take to much, the tree will suffer.

As a full-time tree warden, Minder makes a point to walk with theidentifying crews during their regular circuits — and each time, theypropose a lot of work that Minder said isn’t necessary.

“They have one goal in mind — it’s to get utility line clearance,” hesaid. “They don’t care about neighborhood aesthetics, if your houseis in full sun all day, if there’s erosion on roadsides. These things arewhat a tree warden has to look at.”

David Goodson, UI’s director of vegetation management, told PURAthey send crews out to prune trees to a “four-year clearance” of 8 feet to the side, 10 feet below, and 15 feet overhead.

Fairfield has been a designated Tree City USA for nearly 32 years, arecognition of the city’s tree stewardship and urban foresteducation. In 2019 when UI rolled out TRM, Minder said they didn’tpropose any regular tree trimming, but wanted to do 24 miles ofTRM work, which the town refused.

“We’re not against UPZ (Utility Protection Zone) or direct contactprogram,” Minder said. “It needs to take place, but you need toinclude the tree warden.

”Mary Hogue, chairwoman of the Fairfield Forestry Committee, saidshe’s concerned that two customer rate increases have beenapproved specifically for tree trimming, yet Fairfield ratepayersdidn’t see any scheduled work done last year.“We’re convinced the work needs to happen and that there areplenty of roadside trees that need to be removed,” she said. “Thetree trimming needs to happen and is essential, but it needs to bedone with an arborist’s eye.”

Vegetation Management

Crowder said UI is simply trying to prevent hazards before theybecome problems.

“When we see a danger spot, we address it instead of waiting forthe next trim cycle.” he said. “We have an obligation to provide safeand reliable service.”

Last year, UI did TRM work on about 285 miles of distributioncircuit out of about 3,500 miles, prioritizing circuits with poor

reliability performance farthest away from scheduled routinemanagement, he said.

When asked why the utility is proposing this work withoutconsulting with the tree wardens, Crowder said, “We haveobligation to maintain the safety and reliability of our system andour customers expect us to do that on an ongoing basis.”

Crowder said crews are not taking down trees under this program.In January 2014, UI began the Utility Protection Zone program toestablish a clearance zone extending 8 feet horizontally andground-to-sky vertically around all of its primary distribution lines,according to the last vegetation management plan submitted toPURA. The authority approved $100 million for the 8-yearvegetation management plan, which was piloted in Hamden,Milford, Orange and Shelton.Then the authority approved a $162 million, 12-year plan, extendingthe program to 2025. UI said the increase was needed to fund theescalating costs of municipal traffic control, the consent andobjection process and rising costs of tree work.In UI’s vegetation management report to PURA, the utility saidcompliance with the legislation governing tree trimmingnotifications “has a negative impact on crew productivity andschedule completion because of the disruption it causes to the planand subsequent flow of work.”Utilities are allowed to pass along tree-trimming costs to ratepayersif they can prove to PURA the expenses are justified.

Outage Resiliency

Crowder said UI has seen consistently strong results in reductionsof outages over time.“We’re proud of UI’s excellent record of reliability, which ranks nearthe top in our industry,” he said. “This reflects UI’s proactiveapproach to upgrading and maintaining its system, including itsrobust vegetation management program.”UI circuits that have undergone UPZ clearance show a 65 percentimprovement — fewer interruptions — in day-to-day reliability from2015 through 2018, compared with just 9 percent improvement forthose that did not undergo UPZ clearance.Crowder said he didn’t know of customer satisfaction surveyscollected on tree work.

Benfits of an Urban Forest

Street trees can provide benefits far beyond neighborhoodbeautification, according to the Arbor Day foundation. Trees canprovide energy savings for heating and cooling, tame stormwaterrunoff, mitigate erosion and combat climate change.Hoffman said trees are one of the main nature-based solutions tothe climate crisis.Yale School of Forestry Urban Resources Initiative Director ColleenMurphy-Dunning works hand-in-hand with New Haven to plantmore street trees with consideration of species diversity, ecologicalbenefits and utility line safety.They plant about 500 trees every year in the city, employing theRight Tree Right Place practice that involves planting smaller,

ornamental trees under utility lines that won’t grow too tall whenfully mature. Across the street from utility lines they can plant tallershade trees so that they avoid the conflict cities have today withutilities, she said.“The practice has been Right Tree Right Place, but there are treesthat are tall and healthy planted under the lines and it’s OK,” shesaid. “If you have healthy tall trees they bring so much benefit.”Beyond beautification, URI estimates that New Haven’s street treessave the city about $4 million per year.

An appeal to PURA

Others in UI’s service territory are equally concerned. TheGreenwich Tree Conservancy, a local nonprofit that promotes thepreservation and enhancement of the tree and forest resources,oppose the program “because it offers convenience toConnecticut’s utilities at the expense of citizens, local publicofficials and our communities.”Eric Hammerling, Connecticut Forest & Park Association executivedirector, served as chairman of the State Vegetation ManagementTask Force and said the program would circumvent the publicnotice requirement that ensures vegetation management workconsiders landowner and community interests.Hammerling said when legislators discussed amendments to thelaw, utility companies asked to include the direct contact provisionso they could quickly respond to emergency situations. He said themeasure made sense at the time to everyone, but with the TRMprogram, UI appears to be using an intended ‘emergency measure’

as the basis for much of its planned work in some of its territory.Crowder said the utility considers an emergency to be when thelights are out or there are live wires on the ground.“We don’t want to wait for that to happen,” he said. “The statuteallows UI to address these threats proactively and expediently aspart of its obligation to provide safe and reliable service.”mdignan@hearstmediact.com

So, What’s the Greenwich Tree Conservancy Done for You Lately?

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Submitted by the Greenwich Tree Conservancy

So,what’s the Greenwich Tree Conservancy done for you lately?
Lots more than you might think in 2019.

First and foremost, the Greenwich Tree Conservancy (GTC) with the assistance of the Town Tree Department, planted over 500 trees this year. A record number since the Conservancy’s inception in 2007. These plantings added to the thousands of carefully selected trees already planted.

Tree plantings in Greenwich are the first order of business for the Conservancy but certainly not the only. GTC regularly testifies for the protection of existing healthy town trees. Recent testimony addressed the unnecessary cutting of healthy trees by Eversource and random cutting by developers. Additionally, at a July Board of Education hearing to extend the playing fields at Hamilton Avenue School, an alternative to losing mature trees was found.

Included in GTC’s mission isthe education of residents on the importance of a healthy town forest. In 2019 they invitedrenowned tree expertand field researcher Peter Wohlleben, author of “The Hidden Life of Trees”, to speak at the Greenwich Library to a packed house of almost 400 people. The Conservancy encourages residents to get outside and enjoy their parks through regular guided tree walks. This past fall GTC partnered with The Historical Society for a Putnam Cemetery walk and Town Tree Warden Greg Kramer along with GBC Horticulture Director Lisa Beebe, led a walk in Binney Park to learn about the many recent new plantings.

Treasured Trees, a new program for the Conservancy, invites residents to nominate a treasured tree on their property. A tree can be nominated for its special history, memory, unique story, or perhaps its size or shape. Nameplates were installed on each honored tree and a framed photograph of the nameplate installation was given to each family at an October reception.

In November the Conservancy, in partnership with the Greenwich Land Trust, harvested chestnuts at a chestnut tree planting it contributed to back in 2014. This planting is part of the American Chestnut Foundation’s effort to restore the lost American Chestnut Tree.

Good things happened this past year for our town’s urban forest. For more info and offerings for 2020, visit www.greenwichtreeconservancy.org.

Despite Movement to Postpone, RTM Votes on POCD

On Monday night the RTM voted to approve the 2019 Plan of Conservation and Development, which was a surprise.

There had been much talk about postponing the vote. In fact, four committees had voted for postponement.

Earlier in the day, RTM Moderator Pro Tempore Alexis Voulgaris said on WGCH, “I think RTM members just want a little bit more time to read into it before they weigh in. …It’s a big item, and we’ll likely put it to the following month.”

Among those advocating for a vote Monday night were LWV president Sandy Waters, past LWV president who is head of the Tree Conservancy JoAnn Messina, Conservation Commission’s Susie Baker, former P&Z chair Louisa Stone and  Francia Alvarez, who spoke as a member of the Land Use Committee and as a resident.

Also, on Monday afternoon, First Selectman Fred Camillo issued an op-ed supporting the POCD.

P&Z director Katie DeLuca said she was pleased with the vote. “My sense is that hearing speaker after speaker explain the virtues of the Plan, the hard work and outreach that went into it, and the desire to move it forward, was ultimately what swayed the majority from voting for postponement,” she said in an email on Tuesday morning.

Indeed outreach was significant, and the lengthy process of public review began back in 2017.

There were workshops, group discussions, and online tools for gathering input. Public workshops included:  Community Workshop (January 17, 2018), Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, Downtown & Village Business & Property Owners Workshop (January 18, 2018), Putnam Avenue Business & Property Owners Workshop (January 19, 2018), Community Visioning Workshop (May 17, 2018), Subareas Visioning Workshop (October 4, 2018), Presentation of the draft (September 19, 2019), and a Public Hearing (November 12, 2019).

Also, focus groups included 32 meetings with town boards, commissions and organizations – everyone from Tamar Lurie to the Tree Warden, and from Greenwich Hospital to the Housing Authority. The P&Z Commission publicly noticed 50 other meetings to discuss edits of the POCD draft.

After a motion to postpone failed, the overwhelming majority of RTM members voted in favor.

The vote was 148 in favor, 24 against and 4 abstentions.

The next step is implementing the Plan.

“It was extremely gratifying to have that kind of support for the document,” DeLuca said.

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POCD workshop at Greenwich High School. October 4, 2018 Photo: Leslie Yager

One of the guiding principles of the POCD is to preserve community character.

After input from a public planning session at Greenwich High School last year, P&Z agreed to work on a landscaping plan for Route 1 and to address signage.

DeLuca noted that the Riverside Association in particular has urged the town to create a “sense of place” on Rte 1 in Riverside.

Liz Peldunas of the Riverside Association has said that community wants the Post Road to reflect a character of place and described Riverside as both “a mutt” and the “poor step child” of Cos Cob and Old Greenwich.

For example, at hearings on a 20 unit building at 1205 East Putnam Ave proposed under the Town’s 6-110 “workforce housing” regulation, Peldunas noted Riverside has a village name and distinct zip code, yet its main drag is Putnam Ave.

P&Z has since put a moratorium on 6-110 applications.

Also, DeLuca said P&Z has had several sessions with the Greenwich Board of Realtors, and as a result the Commission is committed to studying FAR, height, and other building controls so they are simple enough to explain to newcomers and less dependent on professionals.

The POCD also calls for developing a tree preservation ordinance for private property, which has been on the radar of many local environmental groups for years.

A recent 6-110 application for 62 Mason Street, submitted before the moratorium, was case in point.

For the 7-unit building, which will replace an 1890 structure, the applicant had to hire professionals for repeated appearances before P&Z and ARC.

At the same time the application demonstrated the need for a tree preservation ordinance.

Over the objections of the Tree Conservancy, the applicant received permission from the tree Warden to cut down a mature Town-owned Maple tree that is part of the historic streetscape to make room for a wide driveway.

As part of the agreement, the tree warden stipulated a “historically important” Magnolia tree on the property be preserved. However, the applicant’s attorney John Tesei subsequently said the Magnolia was not healthy and needed to be cut down.

The commission ultimately approved the 7-unit building. It includes 2 units of workforce housing.

“This ordinance will be tricky as we must ensure the appropriate balance
between private property rights and the public good,” DeLuca said of a tree ordinance.

The Plan also seeks to develop housing opportunities that include innovative, high-quality, green, “physically accessible to all” options beyond the single family residence.

“We need reasonably priced housing to attract young families who will invest in the community. We need options for our seniors who want to downsize, and we need options for the 60% of the Town employees and the 60% of Board of Education employees who currently live outside of Town,” DeLuca added. “That’s 2,200 employees who could be spending more of their time at work instead of commuting.”

DeLuca said the Plan will also promote “hidden housing” like accessory
apartments and identify illegal apartments.

She said the Plan also addressed the balance between having top quality public and private schools and respecting neighborhoods.

DeLuca noted schools are mostly located in residential neighborhoods, and neighbors have voiced objections to increased traffic and to school expansions.

A proposed 30% FAR in 2018 drew the ire of neighbors of GHS and Greenwich Academy in particular. That proposal was ultimately withdrawn.

In response the POCD has action items that will address traffic, protect privacy, increase buffer space, and add planting requirements between schools and residential neighbors, particularly around parking lots, auditorium spaces, and athletic facilities.

Other guiding principals are to preserve open space, particularly in back country, and to maintain the town’s economic vitality by upgrading zoning regs and streamlining the process of establishing a business in Greenwich.

It also refers to strengthening Downtown as the central business district, exploring a dredge of  Greenwich Harbor, creating an art installation, improving lighting in the Steamboat Rd underpass and improving parking downtown by segregating employee parking from consumer parking.

And, finally the Plan talks about providing the best quality infrastructure, municipal facilities, cultural institutions and health services.

In particular, DeLuca said, “the health care industry is one we must keep a close eye on as it is gaining strength to parallel the hedge fund industry in terms of where we can add value.”

And while the POCD focuses on providing more affordable and moderate-income housing in Greenwich, the elephant in the room remained state affordable housing statute 8-30g.

While P&Z imposed a moratorium on the town’s 6-110 workforce housing reg, 8-30g continues to exempt developments from local zoning regulations.

Though the Commission has had some success with using the statute to convert illegal apartments to affordable units, hundreds of residents have turned out to object to large 8-30g proposals including a multi story building on Sound Beach Avenue (After a law suit, a scaled down version was approved as a moderate incomedevelopment rather than 8-30g.) and a proposal for the site of Post Road Iron Works for a 5-story, 355-unit apartment building with two levels of underground parking that was rejected by the Wetlands Agency. (After the applicant appealed in court, Judge Berger denied the appeal.)

Recently, P&Z approved a settlement with a Milbank Ave developerwho sued the town after the Commission rejected his proposed apartment building.

While residents expressed dismay with the massive building, which will replace six turn of the century houses with one 30-unit building, the developer could have resubmitted under 8-30g for a significantly bigger development.

First Selectman Fred Camillo, who was until last week a State Rep, has worked on a state level toward a moratorium on 8-30g.

Section 8-23 of the Connecticut General Statutes requires each municipality to adopt a POCD at least once every 10 years.