WVN Alert: NSTAR TRIMMING ENDANGERS TREES, AMBIANCE, WALLETS
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Some residents are calling it the "chain saw massacre."
As they cut branches that could cause power outages in bad weather, NSTAR crews have left some trees entirely bare on the street side, taking huge slices out of the canopy and potentially endangering the life of the tree.
Drive along Route 30 between Route 27 and School Street and you'll see what has been going on since the weekend of Aug. 29.
It's more than a matter of aesthetics. The cost to a homeowner of removing a dead or dying tree can reach $2,000 and beyond.
The trimming, under permit, entails 25 miles of local roads in Natick, southern Wayland and Weston.
NSTAR's work may not be occurring in your neighborhood now, but be aware that in 2006 a similar problem occurred on Stonebridge Road.
Wayland's standard permits for tree trimming contain a page of conditions. One condition prohibits cutting branches with a diameter larger than 3 inches without permission from the deputy tree warden.
On Aug. 31, after the decimation occurred on the north side of Route 30, Wayland's Department of Public Works director issued a cease and desist order revoking NStar's permit. After an NSTAR representatives met with the director and the town administrator, a new permit was issued. Work was under way this week on some streets, and crewmen told concerned residents that their orders were to cut extensively.
Last winter's long power outages in western Massachusetts caused severe problems in affected communities. Utility companies face stiffer fines in the future for power outages, creating an incentive to trim trees more aggressively. Their arborists claim a right to cut out a corridor up to the sky eight feet into the property from the utility lines.
Route 30 property owners are left with lopsided trees with heavy foliage only on the house side. With so much foliage removed, some of those trees are expected to die. In future storms, as these weakened mature trees tilt toward the houses, homeowners could face greater risk of trees falling onto their houses.
Wayland officials have been hearing from concerned residents in Damon Farms, the Loker area and Wayland Hills. Residents with shade trees in their front yards need to know where the town's right-of-way line is on their property. That line can vary. Residents can also check their property deed to see if there are utility easements that give rights to NSTAR to do work on what appears to be private property.
Residents who determine that the trunks of their shade trees are on their private property can question the crews who show up planning to cut away the green canopy over the lines. If you don't already have photos of your front yard landscape and streetscape, you may want to take some.
You have the right to ask to see the permit. You can point out the permit condition that does not allow them to cut branches with a diameter greater than 3 inches without the deputy tree warden's approval. If crew members have no written approval to show you, you can try insisting they comply with the permit.
You can remind them of their work on Route 30 and ask them how far and how much they plan to trim. If you are not satisfied, you can ask to speak with NSTAR's arborist, identified by crew members as a Mr. Hayes. You can contact NSTAR's legal department and say you are not authorizing work on your private property. You can contact the town administrator (fturkington@...) or elected town officials and ask the town to enforce its permit.
If you are not home during the day to advocate for your property, you may return home to find that the utility's contracted tree cutting crews have already made the decisions for you.
Keep in mind that the Route 30 trees were decimated during a weekend.
Wayland prides itself on its semi-rural character and on being a safe community. Residents have the right to demand a reasonable balance between guarding against outages and killing mature shade trees on their property.
-- Linda Segal
Because of an editing error, a paragraph in Newsletter #314 may have been misleading. The passage should have read:
A ballot question political action committee is being formed, "Yes for Wayland High School." The HSBC will hold public forums Oct. 15 and Oct. 20 for residents to learn about the project.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor