At a shade-tree hearing Monday afternoon, Edgartown selectmen voted unanimously to permit James and Carolyn Berluti to remove two trees from their property at 86 School St. and replace one of them with a Norway maple, a tree on the Massachusetts prohibited plant list. The morning after the vote, one selectman contacted by The Times is rethinking his decision.
Fred Fournier, the president of the landscaping company Landscope, came before the board on behalf of the homeowners, who weren’t present, and asked for permission to remove a Sargent cherry and a Norway maple. Fournier said the cherry was practically dead, and the maple was growing against the foundation of the house. He noted the property also had an elm not slated for removal. That tree will be protected from construction that is about to begin.
“So what we propose to do is take the two trees down, and then replant with another nice elm and another nice Norway maple,” he said.
“Have you talked with Allan [Debettencourt] about what you plan to do?” chairman Margaret Serpa asked.
“Yes,” Fournier said.
Serpa then posed a question to tree warden Debettencourt: “Do you have any questions, Allan?
“No, he’s got a very good plan,” Debettencourt said.
“So the proposal for that is a new six-inch-caliper elm and and a six-inch-caliper Norway maple?” selectman Michael Donaroma asked.
“Yes,” Fournier said.
Donaroma, who is president of Donaroma’s Nursery and Landscaping Services, did not express any qualms with Fournier’s proposal during the meeting.
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) banned the importation of the Norway maple on July 1, 2006, and the propagation of the tree on Jan. 1, 2009, according to the MDAR prohibited plant list website. According to the site, pre-existing Norway maples aren’t required to be removed, but new ones cannot be sold or added to the landscape.
Reached Tuesday morning, Donaroma said he knew during the shade-tree hearing the proposal for a Norway maple wasn’t acceptable. He told The Times Fournier, who used to be Edgartown’s tree warden, should have known better. But he also said Fournier told the board, out of earshot of the audience, that he was also considering a linden to replace the Norway maple against the house at 86 School St. He said also assumed Debettencourt would likely have eventually rejected the use of a Norway maple. Donaroma said he planned on calling Debettencourt as soon as he finished speaking with The Times in order to ensure that in his further review of the tree project, a Norway maple wasn’t used. Donaroma said given its rapid growth rate and thick canopy, he understands why the Norway maple is desired as a shade tree; nevertheless, he acknowledged, it’s a forbidden plant.
On Tuesday evening Fournier told The Times that over his long career, he hadn’t heard Norway maples were verboten. In place of a Norway maple, he said, he would likely site a linden, a tree he’d been leaning toward using anyway. If need be, he said he’s more than happy to help resubmit the application from architect Chuck Sullivan, the owner’s agent he was proxy for on Monday afternoon.
The town of Concord dedicates part of its website to providing information about the tree. “Many of the features that made this a desirable tree to plant by roadsides are also why it has become invasive,” the site states. “Being hardier than many native tree species has allowed it to outcompete and thrive. The ability of this species to grow in deep shade makes it particularly threatening to native forest habitats. Like many invasives, its ability to grow quickly gives it the upper hand when gaining control of an area.”
Fournier told the board another Norway maple was being considered for another part of the property, but a linden could also be planted.
Serpa asked when the replacement shade trees would be installed.
“They’re going to do a fair amount of construction on the house, so I’d say in the spring,” Fournier said.
When pressed for a specific date, Fournier said by June 1.
From information available on the MDAR website, it’s unclear what the penalties are for violating the prohibited plant list.
In other business, Alexander Tamargo, manager of Town Bar and Grill, came before the board to answer for noise complaints. Tamargo was reminded the establishment has accrued four complaints, the most recent being for amplified music outdoors when Town Bar and Grill has no permit for such entertainment. Selectman Art Smadbeck warned Tamargo the business was in danger of having its liquor license suspended if another complaint surfaced. Tamargo said the warning was not lost on him, and he would ensure there would be no recurrence of amplified outdoor music. The board took no further action.
Updated with comments from Fred Fournier.