Hearings on 29 proposed Shade Tree removals: What’s on the chopping block (Updated)

Above: The Town has posted information about trees along Town Road that the Tree Warden will discuss removing in public hearings next week. (images from posted materials)

Next week, the Planning Board will hold two hearings next week on 29 trees slated for potential removal. The Town has posted hearing notices along with relevant details on each tree to be viewed and discussed.

In April, Southborough was designated a Tree USA City under a Planning Board initiative. Town officials have been encouraging residents to plant more trees. And yet, residents and readers have lamented the seemingly sudden removal of trees along roadsides. The issue was raised to the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen last winter when Deerfoot Road residents aired some complaints.*

Residents were unhappy about the removal of trees on their street, including a 200 year oak. Marguerite Landry stated said that all but one of the trees were removed without notice to neighbors. That was something she hoped could be changed for future tree takings in town.

Deerfoot Road is among the 30 “Scenic Roads” subject to a Town bylaw** that generally requires a Planning Board hearing before trees are removed. Meanwhile, tree removals are overseen by Public Works’ Tree Warden. That chain of command leads up to the Board of Selectmen.

Since those meetings, the DPW and representatives from the Planning Board, BOS, and Town Counsel have been collaborating on a new Town policy on Tree Removals. The Planning Board discussed the progress at their September 28th meeting.

A final version with guidelines on holding hearings has yet to be posted. But the collaboration did appear to lead to more public transparency.

Hearings are now posted for 29 trees being considered by the Tree Warden for removal. Under the new policy, the working group also plans to ask utility companies to share information about their annual maintenance and removal plans. (I know that seemingly sudden tree removals by DPW or utilities has been a real pet peeve of some readers.)

According to Planner Karina Quinn, DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan was looking to expedite hearings on the trees. She wanted officials and the public to look at the trees before too many leaves drop this fall. (One of the issues highlighted in photos of trees is the lack of leaves on branches.)

Hearings are scheduled for October 15th and 16th. The October 16th hearing includes trees on “Scenic Roads”.***

[Editor’s Note: An additional hearing will be held by the Planning Board on Monday, October 19th at 7:45 pm to discuss the Scenic Road tree list referred to for the Tree Warden’s October 16th hearing.]***

Starting at 10:00 am, officials will drive around to view the trees to be discussed that day. Hearings will be held at noon outside the DPW headquarters at 147 Cordaville Road. The public is provided information allowing them to check out the trees and submit comments at or in advance of the hearings:

Any person wishing to be heard on the proposed plan should appear at the time and place designated. Objection to the proposed removals may be made in writing prior to, or at the

Hearing notices and guidelines for planting trees are posted to the Trees & Grounds page on the Town’s website. The site notes that tree insect and disease monitoring, as well as damage and health assessment are important responsibilities of the division.

The Town has listed the address of each tree, the reason for removal consideration, and photos demonstrating issues. Each tree is also marked on a map of the designated tour. I’m no expert, but the posted photos seem to show that all or most of the trees on the lists appear to be in bad shape. Many of them were on the list based on residents concerned about hazards of dead/damaged trees.

 (Worth noting, a recent article on Boston.com lamented the impact of climate change on trees in New England and called out a need for more arborists.)

Below are the details and links: 

October 15th hearing

The hearing scheduled for Thursday, October 15 will address 19 trees located on Bridge Street, Deerfoot Road, Fisher Street, Parkerville Road, Parmenter Drive, Pearl Street, Richards Road, School Street, Southville Road and Woodland Road. The hearing notice also specifies that trees range from from 6” to 48” in diameter and consist of 1 elm tree, 4 maple trees, 5 ash trees and 9 oak trees. 

Click on links for details: Hearing notice, Tree details and photos, and route map.

October 16th hearing 

The hearing scheduled for Friday, October 16 will address 10 trees located on Breakneck Hill Road, Gilmore Road, Lovers Lane, Middle Road, Mt. Vickery Road and Oregon Road. The hearing notice also specifies that trees range from from 14” to 48” in diameter and consist of 1 maple tree, 2 ash trees and 7 oak trees. 

Click on links for details: Hearing notice, Tree details and photos, and route map.

At the Planning Board’s last meeting, they had noted a preference to hold hearings during their October 19th meeting. While no hearings are posted on the agenda, they will again discuss Public Shade Trees.

*It wasn’t their only reason for complaint. The residents were also looking for help with runoff issues on the street. There have been more recent talks and meetings on the runoff and drainage issues. Covering that is one of the many items on my ever growing to-do list.

**In 1975, Town Meeting voters designated the following roads as subject to the Scenic Roads law: Gilmore Road, Sears Road, Chestnut Hill Road, Lovers Lane, Pinehill Road, Mt. Vickery Road, Breakneck Hill Road, Middle Road, Oregon Road, and Edgewood Road. In 1976, voters added the following roads to the list: Acre Bridge Rd, Bigelow Rd, Granuaile Rd, Latisquama Rd, Deerfoot Rd (from the Southern end to the intersection with Clifford Street), Flagg Rd (from Route 9 to the intersection with Strawberry Hill Road), Valley Rd, High St, Woodland Rd, and Oak Hill Rd (from the MassPike to Route 9).

***Updated (10/15/20 11:55 am): I learned that my initial list of scenic roads above was inaccurate. In the 1976 vote, three of the roads had specific sections approved as scenic rather than the entire street. (I inserted the section information in parentheses above.) That means that I was incorrect in concluding that both lists included scenic roads. The trees being reviewed under the October 15th hearing (earlier today) didn’t include any scenic roads. (58 Deerfoot isn’t within the designated section.)

In addition, the Planning Board has added a Public Hearing to their October 19th agenda to discuss the trees listed on the October 16th/Scenic Roads list.

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Matthew Brownell
3 years ago

I appreciate the Town of Southborough finally moving on the issue of tree maintenance and removal.

The large majority of trees on the list, however, are far beyond being in “bad shape”. They are **DEAD**, and have been so for more than 3+ years.

The trees were killed 3+ summers ago by drought, winter moths, and the Asian long-horned beetle.

The result? We have several dozen dangerous, large , DEAD oak trees around Town, some of them reaching 80-90ft in height, overhanging our public roads and power lines, with limbs heavy enough to crush vehicles or injure/kill passerbys.

Posted to each tree scheduled for takedown are now two (2) notices from the DPW and Tree Warden, informing any interested parties of 2 dates when they can voice any objections or concerns regarding the tree’s takedown.

I’m all for planning and cons lol idering options in town affairs, but is it really necessary to schedule 2 public Group Gropes to discuss and confirm that , yes, the tree looks DEAD, acts DEAD,” and By Jesus. . . it really is DEAD?

This determination to remove a dead tree pis – in nearly every town in the U.S., made by either a Tree Warden, or a Shade Tree Commission. And when a roadside tree is dead , it is immediately targeted for removal within 3 months, not 3 years.

3 years ago

It’s about time the town starts cutting down some of these massive dead trees. It’s unfortunate that the obvious dead trees have to go for approval…

3 years ago

Speaking of fallen trees there’s been one on communication wires for MONTHS on Framingham Rd near house number 50 – pole 36. I’ve called national grid and they checked and said they are not power lines and they will notify Verizon. Well weeks have gone by and nothing. I called Verizon and get the run around. The tree is still there, fallen, leaning on and pulling the wires down like a sling shot to the ground . Hope we don’t lose our cable!

Kathryn K.
3 years ago

Since this thread has some tree-smart folks…Southboro apparently has a “legacy tree”–details here: https://www.mass.gov/guides/massachusetts-legacy-tree-program
Anyone know where it is?

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