Greenwich Tree Warden Amends Ruling on Tree Removal at GHS

On Monday the town Tree Warden Dr. Greg Kramer, who is charged with care and control of all town trees, issued a statement saying he had amended his decision from last week in which he spared some trees posted for removal at Greenwich High School, and kept others.

The trees had been posted to make way for a new ADA parking lot as part of stadium improvements including access road and ADA accessible parking for 17 cars.

Currently the foundations for the new bleachers are in place. The bleachers are complete, ready for delivery in June, and should be erected quickly.

May 12, 2021

Initially 34 trees had been posted for removal, and objections triggered a public hearing held on May 12. During that hearing the BOE architect Russ Davidson announced that 13 trees did not need to come down after all, reducing the total to be cut down to 21.

May 17, 2021

After the hearing, the tree warden announced on May 17 that of the 21 trees remaining posted for removal, 12 cold be removed but an additional 7 would be spared, including two London Plane trees.

There was an n immediately outcry from the community. Joe Kelly of the stadium committee, voiced dismay during the May 20 Board of Education meeting.

“We have some bad news. It’s kind of devastating at this point,” he said during his update on the project.

He said he had personally have attended about 100 meetings in the past year and a half about Cardinal Stadium. We’ve been before DPW, ARC, P&Z and Selectmen in addition to staff meetings every two weeks and public hearings in addition to articles in the newspapers.

“After all these meetings, we got all the approvals that the town requires, including building permits,” he said. “Shortly after beginning work on the project, the tree warden showed up. I believe he gets his authority from the state but works for the town. No one during the process no one ever mentioned we needed to have a discussion with the tree guy.”

“This gentleman showed up after all the proposals were made and told us we cannot remove a certain number of trees,” Kelly said, adding that the road that comes down from Putnam Ave down to the stadium is required to be 20 ft across. “Unfortunately we have to remove two beautiful Sycamore trees to be compliant with the regulations for the town Fire Dept for emergency vehicles.”

“We can build our beautiful stadium, and have the press box, bathrooms, team rooms and all the latest features – but we can’t use it because we can’ make sure all the people in Cardinal stadium are safe.”

Second, Kelly said the ADA parking for 17 spots would increase non permeable surface, and that there are limited areas that can accommodate rainflow because of rock formations. He said one of them is an area with 7 trees where Dr. Kramer declined approval to remove trees. Instead Kelly said Kramer suggested putting the rain garden in another place.

Kelly said the State Attorney General had been contacted with an appeal of the decision, but that attorney Tom Heagney said the appeal could take up to a year.

“I’ve suggested, but I think it’s probably me being too aggressive that we ignore the tree warden, but I’m being told by sensible people that I probably shouldn’t do that,” he said. “And people have also contacted me and said, ‘Hey Joe, mind if I show up in the middle of the night with a chainsaw?’ And I said, please don’t. …But if somebody gets hurt, I don’t want that on my conscience.”

May 14, 2021

“The tree warden came in at the 11th hour. For some reason (tree warden approval) not part of the planning process,” said Peter Bernstein Friday morning on WGCH, describing the number of replacement trees being mandated by the tree warden as unreasonable.

Also, on Friday, First Selectman Fred Camillo weighed in during his Ask the First Selectman call-in radio show on WGCH, saying he believed the ADA, a federal law, trumped the tree warden’s authority, and that he had reached out to the town legal department.

Camillo said to avoid similar future situations, the town was working to alter the process to include the tree warden’s early participation.

May 24, 2021

On Monday, Kramer announced he had amended his decision and that the two London Plane Trees of 20″ and 18″ diameter along Putnam Ave could indeed be cut down after all.

Kramer wrote that during further discussion with BOE architect, Russell Davidson, information was shared pertaining to public safety.

“The decision to grant the two London Plane tree removals is based upon International Fire Code Chapter 5, paragraph 503.3.1. Dimension, and the inability within the given land area to design around the existing trees,” he wrote in his amended decision.

However, the Kramer noted that all of the remaining previous rulings would remain the same.

Trees to remain include five located in the proposed rain garden, (infrastructure improvements).

Trees to be removed include 12 to make way for ADA Access and Parking, including two Japanese Yew, one Japanese Falsecypress (Cedar), one White Mulberry, two Sugar Maples, five Norway Maples and one White Fir.

The tree warden ruled that the trees approved for removal will only be granted with an agreement that they be replaced with double the number of trees, and the replacements be no less than 2″ caliper.

Kramer’s decision noted that one London Plane Tree of 20″ on Putnam Ave is actually on State property and was not posted or part of the tree hearing. However, he noted it is shown for removal on the plan.

Also, he noted two Arborvitae – 12″ and 18″ each – along Putnam Ave are also on State property and were not part of the tree hearing but are also shown as removals on the plan.