Homeowners on Whiting Avenue and Hazelnut Place will get some measure of privacy and shade back after the School Building Rehabilitation Committee voted Monday to spend up to $25,000 to plant trees - enough cash for up to 35 trees.
Construction crews began chopping down the trees last fall without notifying the SBRC, members said at the time - then the committee approved removal of other trees during the final phases of the project.
In all, according to a town document, 96 trees were cut down; 21 near a new practice field and 75 along an old railroad bed, where the committee authorized to store roughly 11,000 cubic yards of fill.
"That's a long railroad bed to put 35 trees," said Whiting Avenue resident Kresker. "We're not looking at even half."
During a television interview in October, Town Administrator William Keegan said the town has a policy of replacing trees at a two-to-one ratio.
In March, he reaffirmed that policy during a SBRC meeting at the when asked by the town would plant.
That town policy, however, applies to trees on a public way and are typically trees on curb sides, said SBRC chairman Michael Butler.
"On the railroad bed, it is a different ratio. It wouldn't make sense to plant 180 trees," Butler said. "Bill [Keegan] was going on the experience he has had in the past. In the past several years, [nearly] 100 percent of the trees we planted have been on public ways."
Since the clear-cutting of trees in the fall, Butler has repeatedly declined to specify either the quantity of trees or the amount of money the committee would spend to rectify the situation.
Even Monday, he and other SBRC members signaled that the $25,000 could be an initial phase, and they could approve more trees for the area in the fall.
"We aren't necessarily closing the door. We'll get something in the ground this spring and then see where we stand," said Steve Tolley, a SBRC member.
The committee voted 8-1, with Derek Moulton the lone dissenter, in favor of the smaller landscaping plan.
The contingency fund for the project is pegged at roughly $83,000. That number could grow or drop depending on the outcome of disputed bills and other minor projects, the committee said.
"My thought there was greater potential to go with a smaller project to get something in the ground this spring," said Tolley.
A larger scale option, favored by Moulton, would take the landscaping plan over $25,000, which requires a longer bidding process by state law. Tolley and other members said that would mean they couldn't plant trees until the fall.
"I'm hesitant to say this is going to satisfy, until I see what's put in there," Kresker said. "Now we're staring at four houses we never saw before."
In addition to trees, project officials hydroseeded the area to grow grass and agreed to plant berms and shrubs.
"When that starts to grow, I think things are going to green up and look much better than they did several months ago," Tolley said. "I think the perception of that whole pile changes as it turns green."