Edgartown selectmen tell homeowner he may not cut shade tree

Selectmen and a Main Street homeowner wrangled over the fate of a 25-foot silver maple tree Monday night.

The 25-foot silver maple at 105 Main Street in Edgartown was the focus of a Monday night Edgartown public hearing. – Sam Moore

With a light agenda, much of the Edgartown board of selectmen’s Monday-night meeting focused on the fate of a 25-foot-tall silver maple located at 105 Main Street, as part of a public shade tree hearing continued from June 29.

Last month, selectmen voted to continue the discussion to allow time for property owners Daniel and Christina Santangelo to come up with a plan on how they might replace the tree, which they wanted to remove. Stuart Fuller, highway department superintendent, had recommended that another tree replace the silver maple, or that two trees would soften the rather extensive curb cut on the property. Mr. Fuller was on vacation, and did not attend Monday’s meeting.

Mr. Santangelo told selectmen Monday that the limbs of the tree fall during storms, neighbors complain about the tree, and that he and his wife have spent considerable resources improving their property and the landscaping since purchasing the home in 2012.

Mr. Santangelo said that Mike Hagerty of Hagerty’s Tree Service had trimmed the tree previously. He rebuffed any notion that construction activity or his actions might have contributed to its present condition.

“Mike Hagerty told me as much as a year and a half ago that this tree is history,” Mr. Santangelo told selectmen.

He said that he had not so much as “put a scratch on that tree” since purchasing his property.

“The DPW told me they installed a force main there,” Mr. Santangelo said. “I didn’t do any digging around that tree; that tree has died due to environmental reasons.”

The historical commission had recommended that Mr. Santangelo replace the silver maple with another appropriate tree in the same location, a resolution that Mr. Santangelo found disagreeable. “As far as putting a tree in the middle of my driveway, there’s no reason it should go there,” he said.

He said he had no issue with planting a new tree, just not one in the same location.

Mr. Santangelo said he had built a “beautifully designed garage” on his property and that “for 70 years the people who lived there didn’t spend $5 on landscaping.” He said he took offense with the historical commission, and referred to the commission as “obstructionist.”

Susan Catling from the historical commission noted that the tree was in place when Mr. Santangelo designed the new garage. Georgiana Greenough, planning board assistant, was at the meeting as well, and said that the town agreed to a 10- to 12-foot-wide access, and that Mr. Santangelo had widened it without permitting.

“At the last meeting, we asked that you come back with a plan for what you did want to do,” selectman Michael Donaroma, who owns a landscaping company, told Mr. Santangelo.

Mr. Santangelo produced a drawing that he placed in front of Mr. Donaroma and the other members of the board, Margaret Serpa and Art Smadbeck, that showed no replacement tree.

“How would you mitigate the width?” Mr. Donaroma asked.

Mr. Santangelo launched into a description of the previous driveway, provided photos and said that the old driveway was made of crushed stone and oversize. “Let’s get back to the plan,” Mr. Donaroma said. After more discussion concerning the previous driveway, Mr. Donaroma said, “This isn’t a very good plan.”

Mr. Santangelo said he had consulted with an attorney and a licensed engineer, and suggested that the town would need to “retrospectively go back and make everyone else change their driveway.”

Mr. Donaroma said the selectmen were charged with holding a public hearing to address people’s concerns about removing the shade tree, and “that’s what we’re hearing loud and clear.”

“Why don’t we just leave it,” Mr. Donaroma suggested.

“It’s alive, it’s coming back, just leave it. I’d have a hard time approving this plan,” he added.

Mr. Smadbeck said, “I agree. The tree looks like it’s going to be there a long time. Mr. Hagerty wasn’t here to speak, and it’s probably better to leave it the way it is. Leave it for now and see what happens.”

The selectmen voted unanimously that the silver maple remain at the property.

In other business, the selectmen renewed several commercial marine licenses, and approved Rebecca Hamilton LaMarche’s application for a new commercial marine license, pending proof of her Coast Guard license and proper insurance. According to the minutes from the June 22 Edgartown Marine Advisory Committee meeting, Ms. LaMarche, who is an alternate driver for the Chappaquiddick On Time ferry, plans to provide sailing lessons and charters for small parties of six or fewer people.

The selectmen approved the wording of an application form to be used for affordable housing lots off Sixth Street, and they also accepted a $4,500 grant from the Edgartown Council on Aging to continue funding for a part-time outreach worker until Sept. 16, 2016. The selectmen made note of a violation letter concerning Behind the Bookstore over the July 4 holiday. The business had exceeded time limits and provided entertainment without a license.

Town administrator Pam Dolby asked the selectmen to accept a gift of $574,000 to the Edgartown library. The single largest private gift in recent memory to the library came from an anonymous donor. They accepted the money, as well as $8,000 to the Edgartown School for its student gardening program.

Ms. Dolby also thanked fisherman Donny Benefit, landscaper Steve Handy, and harbormaster Charlie Blair for removing the whale carcass from the beach at Norton Point last week. Margaret Serpa suggested they write a letter thanking the three men for removing the deceased whale.