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Avery Tree Removal Infuriates Neighbors

Construction crews removed more than 40 trees - with plans for more clear cutting - along backyards as part of the new Avery School project.

Just last week, Jamie Simpson and Denice Kresker had a shaded area to relax next to a pool in the backyard of their Whiting Avenue home.

Only now they have a view of an estimated 15-foot high dirt pile along an old railroad bed.

But they aren't alone. Eight homes on Whiting Avenue, plus several more on Hazelnut Street, have a mountain of dirt and rocks behind their homes as construction continues on the new Avery School.

Construction crews removed close to 40 trees over the past week without the knowledge of the School Building Rehabilitation Committee, which is overseeing the project, committee members told Dedham Patch.

More trees were - and still are - on the chopping block, but plans were put on hold until neighbors and SBRC members could be brought up to speed on exact plans. 

Project managers, construction workers, SBRC members met with neighbors Wednesday morning to walk site and explain plans.

"We are responsible for doing it right the second time, because we didn't get it right the first time," said SBRC member Michael Butler, who is also a selectman.

Plans call to relocate and remove roughly half of the 15-foot high pile, and create a graded walking path with the remaining dirt. 

At its highest point, the path will be eight feet above nearby properties and about 15 feet wide, project manager Jim Byrne told neighbors.

"I think it is deceptive looking now, but I believe it's going to look a thousand percent better, exclusive of your lost trees," Byrne said.

Byrne admitted that there was a "lack of notification and getting people involved" when they clear-cut trees.

Neighbors expressed worry that a taller path would only encourage more teenagers to loiter - something they say has been a problem in the past, but added at least the path was below their fences.

"That's a factor you have to take into consideration just because of the activity this is going to draw back here," said Jamie Simpson.

The SBRC will plant trees along the path to replace some of what was lost, Butler said.

But homeowners said it will take years to replace what they had just last week.

"The lost trees I've chalked up as a loss, but the bank being 12 feet above my yard, I just can't accept that," said Stephen Coates, a Whiting Avenue resident.

The plan for the path, drawn in May 2011, didn't need to replace trees construction crews would cut down or have any landscaping requirements. Dedham's Planning Board makes such requirements only when the removal of trees is replaced by an impervious substance like pavement.

The Conservation Commission only limits tree removal for projects near wetlands, which the Avery project is not, town officials said.

Hazelnut Street residents will also see a major change in their backyard views as project officials plan to soon remove more trees and brush in the northeast corner of the project site.

"We rely on neighbors support for projects like this and we respect people's investments," Butler told neighbors. "We've got to fix this."

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