Phase 3 Solar: Library parking lot trees still targeted for removal; fewer trees impacted at other sites; public hearing January 16

 

Since our December emails to our mailing list, a lot of changes have been made to the City’s Phase 3 Solar proposed sites to reduce the impact on trees, compared to our initial assessment of trees at risk of removal. However, the Newton Free Library parking lot (left) would still see all 12 interior trees and berms removed, with the entire lot paved to add even more parking spaces in an apparent effort to gain more votes for cutting trees.

But following three community meetings in December, and increasing public awareness of the extent of proposed tree removals, Albemarle Road and Bigelow Middle School parking lot have been removed from the list of Phase 3 sites. (Countryside Elementary School had been removed earlier, due to anticipated construction needs.) Many fewer trees are being removed at other sites, though some would be “trimmed.” The extent of the trimming is not yet clear. The City now has a spreadsheet of the Revised Project Tree Plan detailing, by site, the 13 trees to be cut, 15 smaller trees to be moved, and 10 trees to be trimmed, as well as the 140 ‘replacement’ trees associated with, but not necessarily at, each site.

Opportunities to weigh in

The City Council, meeting as a “Committee of the Whole” (i.e., all of them should be there) will hold a public hearing this Wednesday, January 16, 7pm, in the Council Chamber at City Hall to hear public comments on Phase 3 Solar. (Agenda with large attachments here.) The purpose is for the councilors to hear from you, not for you to hear from them. Anyone who wishes will be able to speak (usually for three minutes), in the order that they sign up. Please attend if you have concerns about trees, or any other comments, pro or con, you wish to share.

You may email the city councilors directly at citycouncil@newtonma.gov .

You may sign an online petition objecting to the Library parking lot tree removals here.

You can support preservation of Auburndale Cove (including a large red oak, and views of trees across the parking lot) by signing an online petition here, writing to the Parks & Rec Commission via rmclaughlin@newtonma.gov and/or attending the Commission’s public hearing on this site January 28.

More information, revised plans

You view the City’s latest information, and revised renderings by vendors Ameresco and Macquarie on the City website here.

For those with the time and desire to see more detail, including financial terms, the following are available from Public Records requests:

Technical Proposals (the original designs, without recent revisions)

Price Proposals

Deja vu

This was an April 2016 blog post.

Other sites with trees affected

Angier
The large red oak would now only be “trimmed,” not removed, but if the objective is to eliminate shade from the roof, it could involve pruning a large part of the upper canopy, essentially “topping” the tree, which is very bad practice and harmful to trees. This tree should be preserved as is. It shades the wall of the gym, which reduces air conditioning costs.

 

Auburndale Cove
By shortening the length of the western carport, only one red oak, instead of six, would be removed, but it would be the largest one. This tree should be preserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Middle School
The southern carport in the parking lot is eliminated, and 15 trees would no longer be cut along the southern edge. But an added carport in front of the school would result in a 10″ tuliptree being cut or possibly moved. It appears a wide cherry tree might need to be pruned back. Native to more southern states, tuliptrees are a good species for a warming climate.

 

 

Mason Rice
The yellowwood would be “trimmed,” not removed, even though the new plan shows the carport starting further away from the tree. It’s unclear how much would be pruned where (“topping” or not). A poor/fair condition crabapple and a Norway maple would be removed, and caliper inches replaced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Spaulding
The linden on the east side of the lot would be moved. It’s unclear why four young trees (honeylocust, red oak and two sugar maples) along the west side that appear on the aerial diagram to be under the west carport would not be moved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NNHS Lowell Ave
Contrary to what an Ameresco representative said at the community meetings, trees were going to be removed from both parking lots at NNHS. Two London plane trees in the center of the Lowell Ave lot would be relocated elsewhere at NNHS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NNHS Walnut Street
Seven zelkovas in this lot would be relocated elsewhere at NNHS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pleasant St

Only two honeylocusts would be removed instead of four, probably these two. Four trees would be “trimmed,” but it’s unclear which four.

 

 

 

 

 

Williams

There are four “possible trim” trees at Williams, but the ones pictured in the handout are not the red oaks in front of the school (which is good), but some trees along the west side. This is puzzling because most of them are on the abutting property, which is owned by the Walker Center, and it looks like “topping” would be needed to eliminate all shade on the roof.

 

 

 

 

 

Preserve & restore the Newton Free Library parking lot tree canopy; don’t replace it with solar carports

Library trees center berm summer 2015

The following letter was sent to our members and friends, from Barbara Darnell, on behalf of fellow directors Penny Caponigro, Katherine Howard, Ron Joseph, Hal Lichtin, Julia Malakie, and Jack Wittenberg:

To our Newton Tree Conservancy members & friends,

This Monday, April 4, Newton’s City Council will vote on the potential installation of solar carports in the parking lot of the Newton Free Library. As proposed, the carports would require the removal of 15 parking lot trees, including an 80+-year old oak. We strongly object to this action.

To quote from a letter to the City Council from the Urban Tree Commission, “Because both trees and solar panels are contributors to climate improvement, they should not have to compete. Both offer special benefits to our environment: trees provide beauty, food and habitat for wildlife, carbon absorption and reduced storm water runoff; solar panels provide electrical power without CO2 emissions. Newton should balance both resources.”

The library parking area was designed in 1989 with 20 mature trees preserved from the undeveloped site. Most were lost over the years due to unapproved construction work and the City’s fading tree maintenance and planting budget. Eight replacement trees were planted only two years ago. We would like to see those trees grow to maturity to enhance the natural beauty of the heart of our city, which includes the Library and City Hall.

The Newton Tree Conservancy supports the City’s Sustainable Energy plan. We are in no way opposed to solar energy, which clearly has a role to play in climate improvement, and are much in favor of the City’s plan to install solar panels on building rooftops and especially at the Rumford recycling area, which do not require tree removals.

Our Library parking lot is the greenest public parking lot in Newton. We urge you to request that the City Council vote “No” on the installation of carports in the Library parking lot and that City instead finds alternate locations for solar panels, which are open and free of trees.

Please contact your City Councilors ASAP and before the Monday night vote, to express your views. Their contact information can be found on the Newton, MA website, and is attached.

Respectfully,

Barbara Darnell, for the Board of the Newton Tree Conservancy

This attachment shows more views of the current parking lot, and how it would look with solar carports, according to Ameresco Solar, Inc., the company with whom the city would contract with to build and maintain the carports.

This is the contact list for Newton city councilors.

Since we sent this email, many people have thanked us for bringing this to their attention, and have sent us copies of the letter they wrote to their city councilors. We appreciate your effort, and hope the City Council will choose to preserve our Library parking lot’s trees.