A flood of objections by Brookline residents halted a request Tuesday night from NStar to cut down 22 trees that have grown up into power lines around town.
“Once a written objection is received in hand, those trees will stay, unless it’s appealed to the Board of Selectmen,” said Tree Warden Tom Brady at a meeting of the Tree Planting Committee on Tuesday night that was attended by nearly 30 residents.
Brady said he'd received about 35 objections, and at least one more was submitted at the meeting. Residents at the meeting were concerned that cutting the trees down was too drastic, and would leave the streets looking barren.
“This number of trees – and the size and the age that they are, and the apparent health that they’re in – they’re worth well over a million dollars,” said Brookline resident Joseph Bullard. “I would say that if we lose the trees – not just this neighborhood, but all of the town of Brookline, is diminished by a million dollars worth of trees, and by a priceless amount of shade and cover and beauty that is given by them.”
NStar has recently come under fire for its aggressive new clear-cutting policy for trees surrounding high-voltage transmission lines. The tree-cutting requests in Brookline are not related to NStar’s clear-cutting plan: the power lines in question are distribution lines, not transmission lines.
Distribution lines are lower-voltage lines that deliver power to fewer customers than the transmission lines.
The utility had requested the right to cut down two Norway Maples on Dunster Road, five Red Oaks on Laurel Road and 15 Red Oaks on Woodland Road. The issue was scheduled for a public hearing before the Tree Planning Committee on Tuesday, but under Chapter 87 of Mass General Laws, once a resident objects to tree removal in writing, the removal request is denied.
The utility has already requested the permission to prune the trees, but was denied. The trees are old, said Brady, and pruning them aggressively could damage them or leave them structurally unsafe.
Christopher Fallon, Senior Arborist for NStar, said in an interview he wasn’t yet sure if the utility would appeal to the Board of Selectmen.
“It may be sufficient to have it on record that we already tried,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re going to appeal, I guess we’re going to have to talk about it.”
Fallon said at the meeting that the trees are a “potential electrical hazard” because they have grown between power lines.
“You can deny it, and that’s fine,” he said. “We want to be sure you understand there is a safety hazard and a potential interruption to electrical reliability.”
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org