NOTICE OF FINAL DECISION OF THE TREE WARDEN REGARDING 121 TREES POSTED FOR REMOVAL FOR THE GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM AND MUSIC INSTRUCTION SPACE ADDITION
A public hearing was held on Tuesday May 24, 2011 at 12:00 for 121 trees posted for removal on the campus grounds of Greenwich High School (GHS) for the Greenwich High School Auditorium and Music Instruction Space Addition (MISA) project. As required by Chapter 451, Section 23-59 of the Connecticut General Statutes, a public hearing was called because I had received an appeal objecting to the removal of these trees within ten days of their posting. The 121 trees were generally located on the east and west sides of the high school building with concentrations of trees proposed for removal in or adjacent to the North and South Parking Lots.
The tree diameters range from 4 inches to 32 inches. The tree species and number of trees posted are listed below. Tree heights were estimated to be upwards to 80 – 90 feet. Tree removals in four naturally vegetated areas amounts to clearcutting nearly an acre of trees and other vegetation.
Numerous votes and approvals were required from Municipal boards, commissions and agencies for this proposed project to progress. Those included the Board of Education, Board of Selectmen, the Planning & Zoning Commission, the Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Agency, the Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Representative Town Meeting. The project achieved all of the necessary approvals. The RTM vote was greater than a 2:1 approval (134-60-8).
17 trees of the total 121 trees to be removed fall within the footprint of the proposed structure necessitating their removal. The other 104 trees are planned for removal due to a mandate to mitigate the loss of parking that the structure displaced. The mandated ratio of 1:1 replacement of parking caused the expansion of parking in the north and south parking lots into naturally vegetated areas. As a result, the expansion of parking and the associated increase of impermeable surfaces necessitated the inclusion of a detention drainage basin in the area of the south parking lot. The detention area accounts for 29 trees of the 104 trees. So this is essentially a parking issue.
It should also be noted that in 2005 there was an expansion of athletic fields that clearcut another acre of woodland—another 124 trees. These trees were removed illegally, cut during the 10 day posting period, thus avoiding the possibility of a public hearing. A fine was imposed and paid. Only 10-15 trees were replaced for this project.
The history of development and sprawl on this site is disturbing. Permanent protection should be considered for the remaining undisturbed portions of the property.
As noted above this project has been rigorously and successfully vetted through many Town boards, commissions and agencies. The tree hearing and Tree Warden’s decision for the destiny of these trees remains as the final hurdle for this project. Deciding the fate of these trees at this late juncture is unfortunate placement in the overall approval process. Therefore;
My decision is not to remove these 121 trees UNLESS the Board of Education agrees to a binding agreement which requires that the following stipulations and conditions are met. Stipulations and conditions will be included on the record plans filed with the Planning and Zoning office.
1.Replacement Trees: The Town’s ‘Public Tree Policy’ states that “Trees removed for approved Town projects by Town Departments will be replanted on at least a 1:1 ratio. Trees species, size and planting locations shall meet with the approval of the Tree Warden”. For this project I would require that trees removed will be replaced at a 1.5:1 ratio or 180 replacement trees for the 121 trees to be removed.
- a. 120 of the replacement trees will be native deciduous tree species 3 – 4 inches in caliper measure.
- b. 60 of the replacement trees may be native and/or non-native naturalized, non-invasive conifer and deciduous tree species 2-3 inches in caliper measure or equivalent.
- c. Trees shall be planted from September 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012
2.Parking Lot ‘Island’ Enhancement: Installation of Silva Cell® Technology for pavement supporting cells to increase soil volume and capacity to improve the health, vigor and longevity of these trees. The Tree Warden will work with the engineers on the implementation and application of this system. Include bollard protection for the trees.
3.Utilization of trees removed: Allow the Tree Warden to investigate the utilization of some of the timber quality trees for lumber for the possible use of GHS Technology and art classes and/or for use by local artisans and woodworkers. The Board of Education would be responsible for reasonable costs for processing the timber products.
4.Guarantee of Replacement Trees: The general contractor shall post a three year surety performance bond for the replacement of trees that may die within three years or those trees that are in poor condition at the end of the three year period.
This is the final decision of the Tree Warden of the Town of Greenwich. Let it be known that Chapter 451, Section 23-59 of the Connecticut General Statutes states “…the Tree Warden shall render his decision granting or denying the application, and the party aggrieved by such decision may, within ten days, appeal therefrom to the superior court or the judicial district within which such town or borough is located.”
This decision will be posted in the lobby of the offices of the Parks and Recreation Department located on the 2nd floor of the Town Hall and the sign post in the Town Clerk’s office. It will also be sent to persons present at the Public Hearing and to those who appealed the posting of these trees for removal.
In conclusion, the fact that the public hearing and the Tree Warden’s decision for the trees on the GHS MISA project posed the final hurdle for this project is out of sequence and needs to change. Tree posting and public hearings for trees should be properly placed in the planning and approval process and not in an ‘all or nothing’ position as the last judgment as to whether a project begins or dies. A policy needs to be put in effect that requires the posting of trees for a project (public or private) should occur before both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Commission have given their final approvals. Only with such a policy in place can rational and realistic decisions be made on the removal of trees after all reasonable and possible strategies have been investigated.
These four stipulations and conditions will be included in Planning and Zoning’s oversight of the project. Adherence to the stipulations and conditions will be a requirement for receiving the final Certificate of Occupancy for the auditorium.
Bruce Spaman, Tree Warden
Town of Greenwich
May 27, 2011