Tisbury urges property owner to preserve pear trees

Pear trees in full bloom on Clough Lane. –Tony Omer

Updated 12/28/2017 at 1:30 pm.

Residents are concerned about the possible removal of two Bradford pear trees on Clough Lane in Vineyard Haven, after a building contractor, who is constructing a new residence on the street, requested on behalf of the property owner that the trees be cut down. On Tuesday, the Tisbury board of selectmen unanimously agreed to voice these concerns in a formal letter to the property owner, urging the owner to reconsider the role the trees play for the town.

Director of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and Tisbury tree warden Ray Tattersall and a certified arborist have assessed the property, and determined that the trees, although healthy, are not on public property. He said that according to state laws, if the trees aren’t on public property, “we have no authority as tree wardens to tell them what they can do and can’t do.”

Property owner Carol White wrote a letter to The Times on Tuesday, responding to residents’ concerns. In a phone conversation with Ms. White the following day, she said her letter reflected her view on the matter.

The two trees, she wrote, are in front of the newly constructed guesthouse, and are both “fragile and malodorous.” So close to the house, they’re becoming problematic.

“I too admire the lovely white blossoms and the fall colors, but these unstable and smelly trees are too close to the house and the outdoor gathering spaces,” she wrote.

Although the issue was not listed on the board’s agenda, selectmen chairman Melinda Loberg said they had received several letters from people in the community who were concerned with the anticipated removal of the ornamental pear trees that line the street. They were planted in 1971 by the Friends of Tisbury, and residents have grown accustomed to their beauty; they blossom each spring, provide shade in the summer, and display vibrant foliage in the fall.

“Hopefully they’ll listen and reconsider cutting them down completely,” Mr. Tattersall told selectmen.

Many people have misconceptions about how a public shade tree is defined, Mr. Tattersall said. A tree is considered a public shade tree based on the location of its trunk, not where its branches hang. “A public shade tree isn’t what hangs into the road; it’s based off the trunk of the tree,” he explained during the meeting.

Mr. Tattersall spoke with Tisbury building and zoning inspector Ken Barwick to see if there was a bylaw that would protect the trees, but Mr. Barwick said there was no such bylaw in Tisbury.

“I think we followed the proper steps,” Mr. Tattersall said.

Selectmen discussed working with the planning board, the tree warden, and town administrator Jay Grande to look into drafting a bylaw that would protect trees that were within a certain distance from public property.