Greenwich Tree Warden Rules on West End Ave Linden Tree, Sort of…

Last week there was a passionate exchange during a public hearing last week concerning the fate of a healthy 28″ European Linden tree in Old Greenwich that is growing through the sidewalk on West End Ave, an urban connector into the village of Old Greenwich.

Members of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy and residents urged a creative solution that would somehow both make the sidewalk safe and spare the tree.

Francia Alvarez from the GTC noted the tree provides a generous canopy in an area that is otherwise heavily paved with municipal parking lots and the train station parking lots. She noted it absorbs a huge amount of water in a part of town known for flooding.

It was noted that the owners of the adjacent commercial property with medical office building had declined to allow the town permission to route the sidewalk around the tree and onto their private property.

West End Ave is a heavily traveled route into the village, and all agreed that navigating around the tree with a stroller, bike or wheelchair is dangerous.

In addition to Ms Alvarez both JoAnn Messina, director of the tree conservancy, a neighbor across the street form the tree, and Conservation Commission member Susie Baker suggested more could be done.

The previous week Selectperson Jill Oberlander had suggested during a Board of Selectmen meeting that the town might condemn a sliver of the adjacent commercial property to re route the sidewalk around the tree. The town attorney said that could take six months.

Alan Gunzburg from the First Selectman’s Committee for People with Disabilities said it had already been two years since his friend fell from his wheelchair trying to navigate around the tree.

Then, during the tree hearing Mr. Gunzburg said he was not inclined to seek a creative solution.

“I want to remind them that here in Greenwich, we follow the law, which says a sidewalk needs to be at least 3 ft wide and in some cases we can go down to 32-inches,” he said. “A man fell out of his wheelchair and into traffic and you guys are screaming about the beauty of a tree. Shame on you.”

On Friday, the town tree warden, Dr. Greg Kramer issued his decision.

Dr. Kramer said DPW engineer Jason Kaufman had presented “factual reasons as to why the Linden tree needed to be removed,” and concluded, “At this time and during the time allotted to render a ruling no resolution was obtained, thus I will grant the request for the tree to be removed.”

He said if the tree is removed he will request that four (4) 3” caliper trees be replanted in the vicinity of West End Avenue. The locations and species will be determined by himself.

An while fans of the tree might have preferred Dr. Kramer deny the removal of the tree to force another solution there may yet be hope for the tree.

“However, if a resolution is attained before the tree is to be removed, I would invite all interest groups to meet before a final decision is made,” he added.

“This is the final decision of the Tree Warden of the Town of Greenwich,” he concluded, adding that anyone can appeal the to superior court within 10 days.

In response to an email asking for clarification, Kramer said, “Evidently there were groups discussing saving the tree before and during  the time I was to give my final decision. As  per the statute, I only have a three day period to render a decision. The ruling mentions that if talks do continue and there is an alternative agreement that save the tree, all parties should meet and discuss.  If no agreement is made, then the tree is approved for removal.”

Kramer further clarified a timeline, noting, “If there are no appeals to the tree’s removal, then after the 10 day period expires, the tree can be removed by DPW, or if an agreement is being worked out then the tree could remain.”

Dr. Kramer said the tree, if removed, would be cut down by a contractor hired through the Department of Public Works.