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SBRC Looks to Make Avery Tree Issue 'Right'

The School Building Rehabilitation Committee met with neighbors on Tuesday evening to discuss plans to grade the path.

Dedham officials overseeing the construction of the new Avery School may not agree on what types of trees to plant, but acknowledged that they need to make things right with Whiting Avenue and Hazelnut Place neighbors.

Construction workers behind Whiting Avenue homes last month - even to the surprise of the School Building Rehabilitation Committee.

Now that committee must spend an unbudgeted amount to replace trees as close to two-to-one as makes sense, chairman Michael Butler said Tuesday evening.

"We don't like taking down any trees," Butler said. "We have to fix that, and we are committed to doing that."

The committee decided in the spring not to truck soil off-site because of a high-associated cost, and rather make a graded path behind the homes. Officials estimated the pile at 11,000 cubic yards, and at an rough cost of $25 to $30 per cubic yard to remove, the pile would've cost the town more than $275,000 to take off-site.

"There is a trade-off. Do you want to invest money in landscaping, or do you want to spend money to pay someone in a truck to burn diesel fuel to take it away?" Butler said.

Project plans call for crews to grade the pile from 15 feet down to about 8 feet. The removed material will be distributed elsewhere on site, project officials said.

But neighbors were caught off-guard by the plan and the removal of the trees. Whiting Avenue resident Denice Kresker is upset about a loss of privacy, and neighbor Rose Hammel is concerned about water pooling in her backyard.

"Grading this is making me concerned that my yard is going to have puddles," Hammel told committee members Tuesday.

Architects, however, say the graded slope and slope of abutting properties won't cause flooding.

"We think that this will not exacerbate any of those [flooding] issues," project architect Brad Dore said.

The path won't be a finished product, and Butler said after the meeting that they are only making it easier for another group to create a walking or biking trail.

Neighbors, however, argued that any path that rises above their property lines and fences takes away privacy and causes a safety concern.

While the board didn't OK the tree removal, Butler reminded residents that no bylaw exists banning what construction workers did. Under Dedham's tree codes, the Conservation Commission only manages tree removal on wetlands, and the existing tree removal bylaw only controls trees on a public way and within a certain footage to a public road, Butler said.

"When this was first proposed several months ago, there was no mention of trees being removed," Butler said. "We are going to replace the trees."

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