Town Meeting: “Tree City” Article 28 codifies current policies; no additional costs

Above: The Planning Board hopes that embracing a Tree City program will encourage non-profits and businesses to help Southborough with green up efforts (image from presentation)

[Editor’s Note: Another post in my continuing coverage of what’s up for vote at the 2019 Annual Town Meeting. The meeting opens this Saturday at 1:00 pm. For more related posts, click here.]

In January, I shared news on the Planning Board’s proposed Article to help the Town become a “Tree City”. This month, Planning’s Chair presented the plan to the Board of Selectmen. Pitched that the program comes with no new costs or regulations, selectmen support the initiative.

It’s worth noting that while becoming a Tree City doesn’t appear to have a downside, Article 28 doesn’t require the Town to achieve or maintain the status. Passing it is just one of the steps needed to get it. If all of the criteria are met, the Town can apply. If the Town is named a Tree City, it would need to confirm meeting the requirements each year in order to keep the designation.

The Planning Chair told selectmen that he hopes the designation will encourage non-profits and developers in Town to embrace the mission by contributing trees and “greening up” the town.

Morris described the Tree City USA program as:

a national recognition program sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, in partnership with the Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters

He told the board that there are currently 87 in the state including following near us: Westborough, Marlborough, Framingham, Grafton, Natick, and Weston.

Morris said encouraging planting is part of his board’s efforts as they plan for the Town’s 300th year in 2027.* They previously hired a consultant to identify where trees can be safely planted on public land and what kinds. In addition, anyone who gets permission from the Tree Warden can plant a tree out of the public way which will count towards the program.

As for the eligibilty criteria, the Town already meets two of the four. #1 is having a department or board. The Town has a Tree Warden and occasionally brings in an arborist. According to Morris, that passes muster. 

Passing Article 28 would check off criteria #2 – having an ordinance/bylaw. Yet, according to Morris, the new bylaw wouldn’t add any burdens for the Town or property owners. Planning consulted the DPW, the Town of Hanson, and Town Counsel. Morris claimed the final version of the Article is essentially the same as the Tree Policy adopted by the Town in 2010. The Article simply codifies it into Town bylaws. (You can read the Article here.)

Criteria #3 does require spending on tree maintenance. But Morris and Public Works’ Karen Galligan told selectmen that the Town already spends well above the $2 per capita minimum. (Ironically, the bulk of those expenses have been tree removals.)

If the Article passes, the Town would only have one additional requirement to meet before applying for the status. The Town would issue an Arbor Day proclamation. Morris provided an example provided by Tree City USA. (Click here.) 

Morris told the board that the Town Planner is willing to to draft the proclamation for selectmen. If necessary, she can also take on the responsibility of applying for the status and maintaining documents to renew each year.

Arbor Day falls on the last Friday in April, which is right around the time that the Town celebrates Earth Day. (Earth Day is April 22nd. Southborough usually holds a clean up event on the following Saturday.) The Town holds an annual Clean Up Day through partnership between the DPW and the Rotary Club. In recent years, they have added activities honoring Arbor Day as part of the celebration.

*Editor’s Note: Planning isn’t the only group thinking about trees in relation to the tricentennial. In 2016 shared that the Historical Society was planning an effort to repopulate a heritage tree. They hope for their initiative to bear fruit by Heritage Day 2027. Stay tuned for more on a related grafting class in early April.

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5 years ago

Tree City?

What effect is that going to have on the trees on Main St. near Fay School and Parkervillr Rd. marked with a BIG orange R?

I’m guessing they’re slated for removal.

How long will it take a sapling planted this spring to achieve the maturity/size of those trees marked for destruction? 50 years? 100 years? 200 years? Unfortunately, it takes decades for a tree to reach maturity.

Are those R trees making way for a sidewalk – that will be moved from its present location (south side) to the other (north side) of Main St.?

Concerned Voter
5 years ago

Exactly. It’s pretty shocking to see one of the only true beautiful parts of our downtown, those blossoming trees in the spring, be removed for sidewalks with six inch curbs. Will those trees be replaced? Or not? Beautification or uglification? Be ready for the same old mantra, “well, you the voters voted for it!” Sure–voted in only after it was VOTED DOWN the previous year, but teed up again after the BOS didn’t like the vote. Undemocratic. Unbelievable. Then, at the next town meeting there was three hours of mind-bending “pro” arguments and no allowance for opposing presentations. (Expect more “fairness” at this town meeting.)

In my opinion, all the charm of our downtown is and will go out the window, along with the trees, due to the skewed and pushy vision of fee based professionals lining up their next fee.

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