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