The Mayor’s Decision

The law is usually pretty dry reading, and can get dense in a hurry. I was excited to find that Chapter 87 of the MA General Code, which governs “shade trees” is remarkably clear and easy to understand.

It first defines shade trees: “All trees on a public way or on the boundary thereof.” Simple enough.

For today’s purposes, I’m interested in Section 4:

Tree wardens shall not cut down or remove or grant a permit for the cutting down or removal of a public shade tree if, at or before a public hearing as provided in the preceding section, objection in writing is made by one or more persons, unless such cutting or removal or permit to cut or remove is approved by the selectmen or by the mayor.

This comes up because we have a pair of tree hearings today (Wed, May 2) related to the proposed removal of 37 trees from the Southern end of Somerville Ave, and also to some number of trees on Prospect Hill.

After the hearing last week about the Beacon Street trees, I found myself curious who was responsible for the decision to proceed in the face of the unanimous opposition of the people in the room as well as those who chose to write letters.

The answer is simple: If even one person objects in writing, “at or before the hearing,” then the decision to authorize the removal rests with the Mayor. The “selectmen” are an alternative structure of the executive branch used in some MA cities and towns.

That is why I am encouraging everyone with thoughts on the issue to write directly to our Mayor, in addition to the Tree Warden and the Arborist.

While those latter two are certainly involved and interested, it is not their decision. I continue to feel that it is disingenuous for the Mayor to send those two people to listen to our feedback when this is fundamentally his call.

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