Deputy Tree Warden Rules on Eversource Proposal To Fell Half Dozen Stately Trees

Last Thursday the Deputy Tree Warden Steve Gospodinoff held a public hearing on the fates of six trees in the area of Round Hill Rd by Lake Ave and North Maple Ave, on the other side of Lake Ave.

Eversource had requested Town approval to take down the trees – one Ash Tree and Five Norway Maples – and after neighbors were notified, they objected, triggering the public hearing.

On Thursday, Jan 3, Derek Kaufman, a homeowner at 98 Round Hill Rd read aloud a letter from his tree care company stating that the Ash Tree was healthy. The tree is on Town property along the road in front of Kaufman’s property.

Eric Barber, an arborist for Eversource, said the trees is in close proximity to power lines and could potentially wipe out power for 340 customers.

He said any of the 5 Norway Maples Eversource wanted to cut down on North Maple could impact 282 customers.

Joy Rendhal beseeched Eversouce’s arborist and Mr. Gospodinoff to spare all five Norway Maples, including two in front of her house.

Rendhal said she was certain 100% of those 282 customers had their own generators.

Francia Alvarez and JoAnn Messina of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy said there will always be a risk of power outages, but cutting down all trees near power lines is disproportionate to the inconvenience of a power outage.

“They shouldn’t just be cutting down trees because it’s convenient for them and protects the power lines,” Alvarez said. “Power lines are everywhere, and if we start to cut down all the trees under power lines, there will be no trees left.”

Messina said her organization objects to Eversource’s enhanced tree trimming (ETT). “We don’t agree with sky-to-ground clearance as other towns have agreed to. We don’t need to clear trees from 8 feet.”

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Gospodinoff issued his decisions on the six trees:

Spared: Ash Tree at 98 Round Hill
The Ash Tree at 98 Round Hill Rd will be spared. That tree has a 28” DBH (Diameter at Breast Height).

“It is my decision to not remove this tree and to revisit this tree in two years with Eversource,” Gospodinoff wrote.

Partial Cutting: 2 Maples at 519 North Maple:
“It is my decision to allow Eversource to only remove the parts of the trees that are in contact with the primary wires,” Gospodinoff wrote noting that CT General Statute 16-234 gives power companies the right to remove any part of a tree in contact with the primary wires.

Gospodinoff gave a caveat, writing, “If removing those parts that are in contact make the tree unsafe or reveals a defect that may be hidden in the tree, removal may be necessary. The Tree Warden or his representative shall be present at the time the work begins, to determine if any hidden defects require the removal of the whole tree.”

Deferred to state statute: One Maple at 456 North Maple
As for a Norway Maple at 456 North Maple, which is in contact with primary wires, Gospodinoff wrote, “It is my decision not to make a decision on the removal of this tree.” He again referred to CT General Statute 16-234 giving Eversource the right to remove any part of a tree in contact with the primary wires. “In this case the Trunk of the Tree is in contact,” he wrote.

Cut Down: A 2nd Maple at 456 North Maple
Godpodinoff noted the 38” diameter Maple located at 456 North Maple has a hole approximately 25’ high on the trunk with evidence of decay.

Though this tree is not in contact with the primary wires, Godpodinoff noted it’s proximity to North Maple Avenue could be problematic. “It is my decision to remove this tree,” he wrote.

Cut down: Maple at 476 North Maple Ave
A Norway Maple tree at 476 North Maple has extensive die back, as well as a damaged and decayed root system. The center leader has bark peeling and is dead. There is die back throughout the tree, which indicates a root issue. “The tree is in severe decline and cannot be saved. It is my decision to remove this tree,” Gospodinoff concluded.

Though Gospodinoff recommends only only one of the six mature trees will be untouched – for now – Mr. Gospodinoff is holding Mr. Barber to his offer to work with the town to replace these trees.

Last Thursday Barber surprised the GTC by saying Eversource would replace the trees one-for-one.

“Eversource has said they would not replant at all,” Messina said. “This is totally exiting!”

“With a caveat,” Barber said. “Not everywhere. Not across the board. It’s one-for-one in highly sensitive areas like these stately old trees with a lot of sentimental value.”

In his decision, Gospodinoff referenced Barber’s promise.

“At the tree hearing, Eversource offered to replant trees if the removal was granted. Eversource, along with the Town of Greenwich, will replant ‘The Right Tree Right Place’ on North Maple Avenue on a one-to-one basis,” he wrote.

Gospodinoff noted that shade trees on the wire side of the road would have to be planted on private property and permission must be obtained from the property owner.

See also:

Residents Defend Stately Trees in Rare Face-to-Face Moment with Eversource