Town Tree Policy may be revised on Tuesday

Above: Tree removal and trimming work conducted in town recently. Next week, the Select Board will discuss proposed revisions to the Town’s related policy, to be consistent with Southborough bylaws. (images cropped from DPW Facebook posts)

On September 19th, the Select Board will discuss potential changes to the Town’s posted policy for removal, trimming, and replacement of Public Shade Trees.

Last week, Select Board member Sam Stivers informed the board that he had learned the Town’s current policy was inconsistent with the bylaws. He said the two should work together, so applicants know what they’re working with.

Yesterday, the Town posted a News Flash on the website notifying that at the board’s upcoming meeting on Tuesday, September 19th, they will discuss possible changes. (That means they could vote to approve the edits that night.)

The message includes links to the current policy (approved on May 2nd) and the redlined proposed changes

The only proposed policy changes I found appear to be fairly minor but could be objected to by some officials or residents: 

  1. The current policy states that replacements planted for Public Shade Trees “shall be a straight native species deemed advisable by the Tree Warden Designee”. Redlined edits specify that the bylaw encourages, but doesn’t require, use of native species. Instead it gives “reasonable discretion” to the Tree Warden Designee.
  2. The current policy requires a consolidated public meeting of the Select Board and Planning Board to review the utility company’s annual Tree and Vegetation Management Plan(s). The change specifies that is only true for scenic roads. For non-scenic roads, it is simply a public Select Board meeting. (That means the Planning Board can attend and make public comments, but wont be voting participants.)

Other edits seemed to be wordsmithing to better clarify policy details.

One clarification did fill in a detail that is insinuated in the current policy but not stated outright. When trees are removed at residents’ requests (not to serve a “public purpose”) or in violation of policy, the applicant must cover the cost of planting replacement trees. (The policy outlines guidelines for the tree replacements or alternative payments, but doesn’t specify who is financially responsible.)

Although the agenda has yet to be posted for the meeting on Tuesday, they generally begin at 6:30 pm and take place in the Town House Hearing room with participation allowed over zoom. (You can expect the agenda to be posted before noon this Friday here.)

Updated (9/13/23 9:03 am): While I was working on this post, an agenda was posted for the Planning Board to attend the meeting to discuss “Public Shade Tree Policy and Possible Updates”.

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