Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Slow Down!

 Drivers ignore speed limit

So tonight's sometimes contentious joint public meeting between the Amherst Planning Board, Tree Warden Alan Snow and homeowner Mickey Rathbun to discuss the fate of ten public shade trees firmly rooted in the way of a new driveway was continued to July 17.

 A strategic mirror on the other side of driveway helps homeowners see oncoming traffic

The Planning Board gave Ms Rathbun a list of materials they need to see in order to make their decision about whether the trees can be removed:  An engineering study of the impacted area, copy of the traffic report done by the town, feedback from the DPW on if they will allow another curb cut, and photos of all the trees marked for extinction.

Ms. Rathbun complained, "It would be nice if I had a little more guidance."  To which Planning Board Chair David Webber responded, "That's the process."  Webber, who has been on the board four years, later stated this was "The most complex tree hearing in my experience."

Amherst Planning Board 6/5/13

After  the homeowners consulted with the Town Manger and DPW Director last year the town did do a traffic study which showed drivers do indeed drive too fast, with about 85% clocked at 40 MPH.  The town installed a 25 MPH sign, but drivers ignore it.

 Current driveway on left looking south, blind curve on right

Tree Warden Snow pointed out, however, that moving a driveway only 60 feet north with a car coming at 40 mph would still not allow enough time to avoid a crash. 

While only 4 or 5 trees stand directly in the way of the proposed new driveway the rest will be mortally wounded by root damage.  Therefor Mr. Snow insists 10 trees of varying width, totalling 127.5" would require removal.  At the current rate of $90 per inch for replacement costs, the homeowners would owe the town $11,475.

Mickey Rathbun address Planning Board, Alan Snow in background under town seal

Ms Rathbun seemed to be requesting a full fee waiver as the cost of the proposed driveway was already prohibitive.  Tree Warden Snow said according to the law a hardship waiver "was at the discretion of the tree warden."  But he also seemed to indicate it was something used for little old ladies on fixed income.

Planning Board Chair Webber then said, "We've never done a waiver."

Normally the Tree Warden has sole say in the removal of a public shade tree, with input from the Public Shade Tree Committee.  But since South East Street, originally established in 1704, is designated a "scenic road" the Planning Board also has equal say.  

Neighbor Janet McGowan agreed with Ms. Rathbun about the safety factor and even suggested the removal of the trees would "open up the views of the Pelham Hills, so the scenic aspect actually cuts the other way."

Kathleen Auble another neighbor and 15 year resident disagreed wholeheartedly:  " I don't want scenic trees taken down for a driveway."  Besides, she added "It will not be any safer."

 Marked for death

New driveway entrance on left current one, center, would remain


Anonymous said...

This seems a whole lot more legitimate than the Universalist Church killing a town-owned tree with impunity..../

Anonymous said...

Trees or people? Give me a break. Put up a Tiffany window in the line of a speeding car.

Anonymous said...

So, do we get to know where this driveway is?

And are we to infer that the reason for moving it has something to do with speeding?

Anonymous said...

If this is really about safety, then why are the applicants not considering moving the driveway to the bottom of the hill, on the south edge of their property? Moving that driveway north will not make it any safer. It will probably be even less safe.

Anonymous said...

If you don't like a tree... Drive a copper pipe into it's root ball.

Anonymous said...

So then they can get hit by spedding cars at a different blind spot on the hill? Look at the site and stand there and see how little you can see and note the cars speeding blind over the hill. This isn't rocket science, just common sense. The farther away from the hill the driveway is the safer it is.

Anonymous said...

Would the new driveway also have the aid of a mirror?

Anonymous said...

Do other towns charge people for removing trees on their property? did the Church in the center of town have to pay for the two trees they just took down on a per inch basis. This seems like the kind of crazy antics that gives Amherst the reputation it so richly deserves. IF it is true that the town owns rights to trees 30 feet into the property does that mean they are also responsible for them. Maybe I have not had enough of the cool-aid but this whole concept seems insane.

Anonymous said...

These trees are not on private property. They are within the public right of way.

Anonymous said...

Amherst - going the the way of the dodo bird.

Anonymous said...

what is the public right of way, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Wrong. The headline was: "Slow Down, You Move Too Fast".

Anonymous said...


This is a time where your blog can be really useful. I was surprised when I read that the homeowner needed to get permission to take down her trees because they were within 30 feet of the roadway. Can you clarify the rules? Does this apply to all homeowners in Amherst? I have a couple or three trees within 30 feet of the roadway. Does this mean I have to ask for permission if I want to take them down? I did not know that. I bet many in Amherst don't know these rules.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, you should definitely check with Alan Snow before you take down trees anywhere near a public road:

The fine for taking one down without proper permission is $500 per tree.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify: There is a wide public right of way between the 666 SE St property and SE St. The affected trees are on town property, hence, all this commotion. BTW, the Town's Open Space and
Recreation Plan, 2009 Update, specifically designates this section of SE St for its views:

South East Street Farmland and Viewshed
The farmland and scenic views to the Pelham Hills characterize South East Street and make it one of the most beautiful drives in Amherst. Of particular note are the natural and cultural amenities within this viewshed:
the Norwottuck Rail Trail corridor, the Fort River, and the Hop Brook to the east.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia has a decent explanation of what a right of way is:

Many people assume that private property comes right up to the pavement of a road or sidewalk, but that usually is not the case. South East Street has a very wide right of way and all of the trees in question are in it, which means that they are town trees.

Larry is correct with his advice to check with the tree warden before cutting down a tree in front of your home. Approximate locations of property lines and right of way lines can be viewed on the town's mapping system at

Anonymous said...

Just for clarification: the trees are on the public right of way between 666 SE st. If they were on private property we could take them down with impunity.
BTW, the Town of Amherst Open Space and Recreation plan, updated 2009, states that this stretch of SE St is designated because "the farmland and scenic views to the Pelham Hills characterize SE St and make it one of the most beautiful drives in Amherst. Of particular note are the natural and cultural amenities within this viewshed: the Norwottock Rail Trail corridor, the Fort River, and the Hop Brook to the East ." (p. 44)
It would appear that the trees in question impede rather than enhance the scenic road under consideration.

Anonymous said...

wouldnt it be cheaper just to cut the trees down and pay the fine that to pay the $11K?

Anonymous said...

If Larry had to pay for things on a per inch basis everything would be free to him.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me, if one looks carefully at the plans - noting how the existing curb cut remains -- that there are future plans to have a future two-entry circular drive. Continue the curve of the proposed new driveway around to the right and notice how it lines up with the existing curb cut -- which will remain -- and then we just remove the wood chips and notice how we have our circular driveway.

Anonymous said...

There is ledge on the South Side of the driveway. Also, a lot more trees. Moving the driveway to the south is not a reasonable solution. I doubt the bottom of the hill is still in their property.

The right of way varies from street to street. 30' into someones property is a lot but not impossible.

I beleive the tree committe should all have to pull out of Mrs. Rathbun's driveway before they make a decision.