Owners sacrifice for Tashmoo view
Capitulating to a long-running campaign of pressure led by a Tisbury resident and Tisbury selectmen, Thomas and Ginny Payette last week cut two willow trees on their property. The trees the couple planted 30 years ago at the water's edge had gradually created a canopy of branches that partially obscured the view of Lake Tashmoo from the overlook along State Road.
"The real issue is how does one protect the beauty of one's property?" Mr. Payette said in a phone call Tuesday. "But also, the town's whole issue is the beauty of the view. And so it's sort of a competitive issue. Do we protect our beauty or do they protect theirs? The end of it is that we aren't going through that issue."
The Payettes decided to move forward with the tree removal after working out an agreement with the town through talks this winter with selectman Jeff Kristal.
Mr. Payette credited Mr. Kristal with being "exceptionally constructive and helpful in getting the thing done."
Although a formal agreement has not been formalized and signed, Mr. Payette said, "We're very pleased at it being resolved."
In a phone call this week, Mr. Kristal said that Mr. Payette, was "extremely accommodating over the last few months in working to resolve this for the town and for other people that wish to enjoy the view."
A compromise takes root
Mr. Kristal broke the news at a selectmen's meeting on March 10 as he and selectman Geoghan Coogan discussed possible warrant articles for the April town meeting. Selectman chairman Tristan Israel was absent.
The selectmen had planned to put two articles related to the Tashmoo overlook on the town meeting warrant, one to fund an appraisal for a view easement on the Payette's property, and another to pay for tree removal.
Instead, Mr. Kristal suggested they should hold off on the two warrant articles, and announced, "Mr. Payette will be cutting trees down tomorrow."
In a follow-up call Tuesday, Mr. Kristal explained what a view easement would have entailed. "That would not be taking land, but rather entering into discussion about how we could get a view from the overlook by cutting down those trees," he said. "And the appraisal would have been to determine the value of the trees, if we were to remove them."
One article remains on the warrant, a request for $3,000 to pay the estimated cost of tree removal and pruning. If approved, Mr. Kristal said the money would be used to reimburse the Payettes. They will not be reimbursed for the value of the two trees.
"If the town doesn't wish to fund it, then we will have to look elsewhere for the funding," Mr. Kristal said. "I think it's short money to accomplish what we wanted, to restore the view back at the overview." He also suggested that private donations might be another funding avenue to pursue.
Mr. Kristal said a written agreement between the town and the Payettes is being drafted. Mr. Payette said as he understands it, the agreement would include a provision for future discussion, perhaps in five years, between the town, himself and his wife regarding the Tashmoo overlook view and trees.
A scenic cause
Patricia Carlet, the driving force behind the Tashmoo overlook campaign, stood in the rain last week and watched Scott McArthur, owner of McArthur Tree Care, and his crew at work.
"I felt badly about having the trees come down, but the landscaper gave me cuttings, and once they root, they will be planted in other places where they won't interfere with the view," Ms. Carlet said in a phone call yesterday.
Ms. Carlet is the founder of the "Tashmoo Save the View" committee. To date, she and committee member Lynn Irons, who lives on the other side of the road from the overlook, have collected 400 signatures on a petition to the state legislature to take whatever measures necessary to restore and preserve the historic view.
Ms. Carlet remains adamant that more must be done. She said that last week's tree removal only partially restored the view. She said that she lives about a half-mile away from the overlook and walks there often.
Since moving to the Island in 1973, Ms. Carlet said she has watched the view become more obstructed through the years. She first complained about the Payettes' trees in a letter to the selectmen in May 2007 and has pursued the issue since then with strong support from selectman Tristan Israel, who has been critical of the Payettes.
Taking up the cause at a selectmen's meeting in July 2007, Mr. Israel said he would like the view at the Tashmoo overlook improved for the public. Town administrator John Bugbee told him that the Payettes had already agreed to a meeting.
However, the Payettes had to postpone that meeting, and a few others. Mr. Payette said that when he and his wife did meet later with the selectmen, the talk turned to state laws on public view sheds and the possibility of the town seeking an easement.
That discussion made them uneasy, Mr. Payette said. Concerned about possible legal issues, the couple sought the advice of Attorney Michael Goldsmith of the Edgartown law firm Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplan and Hackney.
Mr. Goldsmith sent a letter to the selectmen informing them that any further communication with the Payettes should go through him.
During a meeting on August 12, 2008, Mr. Israel called attention to Mr. Goldsmith's letter and another failed attempt to meet with the Payettes. "I can't think of anything more important to the public as a view shed," he said. "The idea of doing something for the greater public good apparently is not important to the Payettes. We have tried everything. We were civil, we offered alternatives, and basically, we were stonewalled."
But not everyone agreed with his views. In a letter to the editor published on August 28, 2008, Jonathan Snyder, a member of the Tisbury FinCom and a neighbor, took issue with Ms. Carlet and Mr. Israel's reference to the importance of a "view shed."
"Someone else's wish for a better view should not outweigh a landowner's right to protect his private property," he wrote. "If it did, where would it stop?"
Seeking peaceful coexistence
The Payettes said the notion that they have been intransigent is unfounded and untrue. The couple said this week that they felt they were characterized unfairly, given that they live in Cambridge and Mr. Payette's work as a full-time architect often presented scheduling conflicts.
"We did attend meetings, and there were times we couldn't make them," Mr. Payette said. "We had three meetings with the selectmen as a group, and then we had some individual meetings with some different ones. In fact, we had some friendly conversations about what we were trying to do."
In addition to feeling misjudged by many in the Tisbury community, Ms. Payette said she was concerned that she and her husband would be harassed about the trees every time they came to the Island.
"Because we only go there a little bit, we go there to relax; we don't go there to fight," she said. "Tom and I are both 77. And the thing is, we aren't going to live forever, and we'd just like to be able to enjoy it while we live."
Reflecting on the trees' sentimental value, Ms. Payette recalled they were planted when she and her husband first bought their Tashmoo Farm property 30 years ago. Since then, their four children and 10 grandchildren have played and held special celebrations, including weddings, under those trees, she said.
Nonetheless, Mr. Payette concluded, "We don't need to battle over trees. We battle over so much in this world, it's ridiculous."
The Payettes said they also received helpful assistance from Tom Robinson, a professional arborist and chairman of the conservation committee. He met with the Payettes and offered suggestions, which were passed along to Mr. McArthur, about trimming rather than removing trees to open up the view.
The Payettes in turn asked Mr. McArthur, who had done previous work for them, to take over their discussions with the town. After studying the view from the overlook, Mr. McArthur recommended removing two willow trees and pruning one, and removing a chokecherry tree and undergrowth by their stone wall, which also was done last Thursday.