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Conservation Commission Endorses Trees’ Removal

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KENT—The Conservation Commission has approved the removal of three trees at 529 Skiff Mountain Road.

The approval came Jan. 10.

Removal of the trees, which obstruct the sight line for cars pulling out of the property’s driveway, was already approved by the Inland Wetlands Commission.

Chairman Connie Manes reviewed the site, which lies along a designated scenic road. She showed pictures of the trees, which sit on a narrow strip of land and are “compromised by vines.”

“Before I read the ordinance, my impression was that their removal would not necessarily change the aspect of the scenic road,” she said.

Her site visit did not change her opinion. “It will be just as scenic without those three trees,” she said.

New board member Jean Speck suggested that three native trees be planted to replace them.

The commission discussed its 2024-25 budget and whether it should reserve the $1,000 line item for mapping and printing, specifically for an update of its Natural Resources Inventory.

Member Wendy Murphy, who helped author the original NRI, said she thinks the new version should eliminate recommendations.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said, “and I don’t think commissions pay any attention to them. They get out of date quickly and it’s just a lot of print. We can generate a lot of good data about Kent without the labor.”

Member Melissa Cherniske resisted removing any money from the commission’s “slender” budget, but Manes noted that most people seek information online and doubted there would be the same kind of printing costs. 

But, she conceded, the first edition, which sold for $30, contained a lot of historical data and information for a general audience.

“We could make a book like that again or could have one that just informs other commissions,” she said.

Speck, who has taken a planning position with the Northwestern Connecticut Council of Governments after stepping down as first selectmen, said that agency has GIS mapping capabilities.

“It’s definitely something this group could do with a mobile device and a pad of paper that could be handed off to the COG,” she said. “That would be a great little data set for me to use to dust off my skills. I sense that, based on what we have now, we could probably do it as a partnership and there would not be a cost—but I would have to double-check that.”

The group turned its attention to its continuing discussion of a street trees policy, which would see trees installed in cooperation with property owners.

At issue was whether plantings should be confined to the village center or perhaps be extended to other sections of town.

Also at issue was why trees would be replaced.

“We need to be very clear about that,” Manes said, “because we are offering property owners in one area something we are not offering in other areas.”

“I think it should be limited to the village,” said Spelbos. “We don’t have the money or manpower to do the whole town.”

He added that the motivation for tree removal should dictate whether the town participates in replacing them.

“I don’t think we should replace them if a property owner just decides to cut down a whole line of trees to improve the view,” he said.

But Cherniske argued “there might be reasons to do other portions of town,” advocating for including the Historic District. “I can see some of the more historic homes taking trees down and that would change the way the town looks.”

Murphy said spreading the focus of the tree replacement program would lessen its impact. Still, she noted, “There is a whole school of thought about rows of trees controlling traffic speed,” and suggested grants might be available for this. 

“We need to outline our purpose and then look at how to do it,” Manes concluded. 

The commission will return to the topic in February.

Kathryn Boughton
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