Selectmen Will Make Decision on Service Road Tree Plan

Hearing about the National Grid tree clearing on Service Road.
GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Hearing about the National Grid tree clearing on Service Road.

This story has been updated from what was originally posted on August 26. Original story is also posted below.

Emotions ran high during a sometimes tumultuous hearing Monday, August 25, on a proposal to cut trees along a 4.4-mile stretch of Service Road in East Sandwich.

National Grid has proposed cutting trees up to 15 feet from the north edge of the road as a prelude to installation of a natural gas pipeline.

The stretch runs from Route 130 to Chase Road.

Residents living on and near Service Road savaged the plan, which they said would strip the road of its scenic ambiance, create an ugly swath bordered by a chain-link fence abutting the Mid-Cape Highway, and lead to more traffic noise from the highway.

No decision was reached at the hearing, which was held at the Human Services Building on Quaker Meetinghouse Road. Fifty people attended.

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Paul S. Tilton, the town’s director of public works, announced that the submission of a written complaint about the National Grid plan effectively had shifted the decision on the tree plan from the town tree warden to the selectmen.

The selectmen are next scheduled to meet on September 11.

Despite the criticism directed at the hearing against National Grid, the proposed tree cutting is an outcome of decisions originally made by Sandwich town and water district officials.

Nine years ago, state regulators approved the pipeline to run down the northern edge of Service Road.

But Sandwich officials, leery of the potential troubles posed by installing the gas line among other utilities under the road, recommended that the company shift the line north of the road.

The company decided to do so. State regulators signed off on the change earlier this month.

But now National Grid has to obtain local permits for the project. And that is where Monday’s shade tree hearing came in.

A company consultant, Theodore A. Barten of Epsilon Associates Inc., said that National Grid is prepared to cut trees along the road once local permission is obtained.

But the company has a restricted window this fall for the cutting. To protect the box turtle, state regulators have forbidden any tree cutting along the road from November 1 to April 15.

That may push the tree cutting work, if approved, into next spring.

During the public hearing, state Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich), who represented residents as an intervenor in state regulatory proceedings, said that the National Grid proposal as it now exists effectively would denude Service Road of its tree canopy.

Mr. Hunt noted that none of the selectmen were attending the hearing, and asked if the hearing tape would be made available to allow them to listen to the comments and questions.

Daryl Crossman of Telegraph Hill Road questioned why the tree hearing even had been scheduled, given complaints filed about the company pipeline plan with the Attorney General’s office and with the state Division of Professional Licensure.

Mr. Crossman further said extensive tree cutting would reduce safety along Service Road by opening it up to the kind of sun glare now commonly experienced by drivers on the parallel Mid-Cape Highway.

Nancy Mann of Overlook Drive said that the tree cutting effectively will cut property values of residences on and near Service Road and make it more difficult to sell them.

Speaking to Mr. Tilton and tree warden Justin O’Connor, the hearing officers, Ms. Mann said, “We’re pleading with you. It’s not right.”

Stephanie A. Brady of Overlook Drive said the effects of the tree-cutting plan would tighten the squeeze on her household even further.

“We can’t sell our house—we dropped the price another $100,000,” Ms. Brady said. “They outsourced my job this year. We have no money. Our taxes keep going up. No one wants to live in Sandwich anymore.”

“We lived here 40 years, Justin, and this is what we get,” she told the tree warden.

James H. Watts III of Karla Lane said the tree cutting will increase the noise from the Mid-Cape Highway and that the trees will take years to grow back.

Following the conclusion of the hearing, Mr. Tilton informed the residents that the town had its own questions about the effectiveness of National Grid’s mitigation plan, which would entail planting pine trees on residents’ property.

 

Below is our original posting of this story on Tuesday, August 26.

The Sandwich Board of Selectmen will decide whether to let National Grid go ahead with its plan to cut trees along the Service Road in East Sandwich in conjunction with the installation of a natural gas pipeline.

At a public hearing held Monday night, August 25, at the Human Services Building, Paul S. Tilton, the town’s director of public works, announced that the submission of a written complaint about the National Grid plan effectively had shifted the decision on the tree plan from the town tree warden to the selectmen.

The selectmen are next scheduled to meet on September 11.

Fifty people attended Monday night’s public hearing, which began with a presentation of the National Grid plan by a company consultant, Theodore A. Barten of Epsilon Associates Inc.

Members of the public who spoke at the hearing, most of whom live on or near the affected section of the Service Road, criticized the plan and its potential impact, often severely.

Residents said the plan effectively will eliminate a natural buffer between the Service Road and the Mid-Cape Highway, creating an ugly visual swath that would filter less noise from the highway.         

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