2005-12-29 / News

Panel discusses enforcement of Jamestown’s tree ordinance

By Sam Bari

Panel discusses enforcement of Jamestown’s tree ordinance

At the Dec. 20 meeting of the Town Tree Preservation and Protection Committee, the issue of enforcing the tree ordinance, which prohibits the removal of trees on town rights-of-way, whether town owned or not, was discussed at length.

Town Arborist David Nickerson brought the need for enforcement to the committee in his report. He cited an incident involving a realty company and a tree purchased with grant money that was removed from a residencial property on Highland Drive as an example of why enforcement is needed.

After contacting the realty company and informing them that removing a town tree without a permit is an infraction of the tree ordinance, they agreed to replant the tree. However, no action was taken. Nickerson noted that the tree’s chance of survival diminishes the longer it is kept out of the ground. The ordinance has been in effect since 2001 and violations are subject to a fine of as much as $500.

The new property owner will be advised to take out a permit or face a citation. If the tree dies after re-planting, it should be replaced by the property owner. Nickerson suggested that real estate agencies be educated on permit requirements.

Nickerson also expressed concern about the start of the Narragansett Avenue Improvement Project. He said that if the project did not start in the coming year, the committee may need to proceed with work to improve safety and the health of the street trees. Public Works Director Steve Goslee, who attended the meeting, assured the committee that the project would start.

Nickerson also mentioned that the town is eligible for a third year Tree City USA award, and may be given a growth award as well. He is completing a fifth year application on behalf of the town for participation in the Tree City USA program.

Goslee distributed a memo describing the various kinds of rights-of-ways or ROWs. He pointed out that except for new subdivisions the town owns few ROWs and few streets have any surveyed monuments. This means that any dispute about a tree being on private property within the town’s ROWs would require a survey. It also puts in question whether a tree planted by the committee is in the ROW. Goslee estimated that the cost for surveys could top $1,000,000 and require 60 miles of surveying to include all of the town’s streets.

Committee member Barry Holland moved to award John Collins with a plaque on Narragansett Avenue for his substantial contributions to the Tree Trust Fund. The committee unanimously approved the motion.

The issue of training Department of Public Works personnel to serve as deputy tree wardens was discussed. Goslee said a new job title would require negotiating with the local union. The committee decided to continue to review the draft written by Holland, refine its proposal, and raise the matter with the new town administrator.

Tree trimming requests include one for a large spruce tree planted by the property owner on the northwest corner of Spanker Street and Beacon Avenue. The tree is within the ROW and requires removal or trimming to address a potential traffic hazard. Nickerson said he will discuss the matter and need for a permit with the owner.

Town Councilor Barbara Szepatowski submitted a request to remove three spruce trees near the planned animal shelter at the Town Offices. The committee unanimously approved the request.

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