Understanding Article 30: Questions and Answers
Town Meeting cometh and with it, many posts on the Owl and Facebook and yard signs about Article 30, aka the Sustainable Tree Initiative or Tree By-Law. You can do a search on this page about trees and by-laws and oaks etc for a fully-biased view or watch the League of Women Voters information session here, or any of the multiple Planning Board hearings (I’ll let you search Weston Media for those).
My strong suggestion is not to be swayed by street signs that say “Vote No–Save the Trees” or by anonymous postcards that read “Residents for a Greener Weston.” Make sure you understand the By-Law as proposed–it has gone through a number of iterations to reach where it is. Read. Listen. Learn. Then come to Town Meeting on May 9 at 7 pm at the High School Auditorium.
As part of your research, please read through the following question and answer post –questions were brought forward by a resident on Facebook Community, and answers were provided by Alicia Primer, Chair of the Planning Board. The Owl has not editorialized the following in any form, except with brackets where clarification of a term might be required.
Question: “[Article 30] will force people to take preemptive action and clear cut now, so will it really have the impact it is setting out to accomplish?”
Answer: “The goal is to save trees by incentivizing thoughtful development. Other towns with long-term experience with tree protections have NOT seen preemptive clear-cutting. To say otherwise is to argue for an even longer look back period.”
Question: “What is the real point of a 2-year look back? Is someone within town governance going to come and count and measure the trees that have been previously cut?”
Answer: The goal is to save trees by incentivizing thoughtful development. As Town Counsel stated [on Wednesday, May 4] at our 8th public meeting on the topic: “a lookback period allows a municipality to consider the cumulative impact” of construction. We are taking a holistic approach to the impacts of construction on the land. Lucky that google and other technologies provide us with many tools to measure canopy loss.
Question: “The limited scope and targeting of new builds vs no issue to clear cut if you are just wanting a bigger lawn seems to target a specific subgroup. If the goal is to protect trees, how does this accomplish that by only targeting new builds?”
Answer: The goal is to save trees by incentivizing thoughtful development. (Intentional repetition.) Clearcutting in new development is most impactful on our streets and to our semi-rural character. Last year’s Town survey showed the greatest support for tree protections in new construction, as a direct result of those impactful projects. So that is the direction we took.
Question: “Why is it ok for the town to clear cut as many trees as they see fit just to build a parking lot, but feel they have the right to go on private property and tell homeowners what they can/can’t do?”
Answer: The goal is to save trees. Town projects go through many public hearings, at which citizens can voice their opinions. If voters are unhappy with Town projects, they can make their feelings known. Private projects most often allow for no input from anyone but builders and owners. The bylaw will provide tree protection in the areas along streets and between house lots.
Question: “What will the funds collected be used for? Will they be earmarked for say reforesting areas in Weston, or is this a slush fund for the planning board to do what it sees fit with?”
Answer: The Tree Mitigation Fund will be used to plant new trees on Town-owned land. One example would be to plant succession street trees on rights of way where gas leaks or snow plows have killed trees. The money will also go towards much-needed public tree maintenance. (Refer here to Article 29 of the Warrant.) The Town Manager will manage a revolving fund, with input from the Select Board, and it will be reauthorized each year at Town Meeting, similar to those used by Rec Comm and the Historical Commission. No Planning Board at all!
Question: “Is it necessary to fine people for cutting down trees? Most builders/homeowners enjoy their privacy and will be willing to replant trees on their property. Is there really a need to include such heavy fines, or could the bylaw be more centered on replacing trees that have been cut?”
Answer: The goal is to save trees. No one will ever be told they cannot cut down trees. Credit towards mitigation is given for retaining trees in the lot interior, or mitigation free zone, in recognition of the great importance of mature trees. We are simply asking for mitigation for lost trees, via replanting or contribution to a tree bank. Save the trees.