Stumps: Coolidge Village condos in Northampton cuts down about 24 trees as part of larger maintenance program

Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — A tree canopy that had grown too close to buildings at a downtown Northampton condominium complex was cut down last week, with stumps all that remain until a planned landscaping project that will include new trees is completed in the near future.

About two dozen mature trees that had shaded the 28-unit Coolidge Village condominiums, at 73 Bridge St. across from Historic Northampton, were removed as part of a larger plan to address deferred maintenance at the 45-year-old complex, said Russ Jopson, a property manager at Hampshire Property Management Group.

The decision to do the work was made in a 19-1 vote in May by condo owners because dense shade was causing mold and moss growth on the roofs of the units. Also, tree roots were undermining pavement and some trees were dropping limbs on the area’s parking lot, some of which have struck vehicles over the years.

One condo owner who declined to be identified this week said the trees were really pushing up against the buildings in some places. He reluctantly voted for the cutting, a decision he called traumatic because no one wants to see trees get cut down.

Jopson said the downed trees were in the front of the units, where landscaping was also removed. He added that trees located behind and at the sides of each condo unit are not being touched.

A plan to replace the front landscaping is being developed by the board with input from a landscape architect who is also a unit owner. The new landscaping is expected to be finished in late September, Jopson said. It will include new trees, shrubbery and perennials and annuals throughout.

The work is part of overall plan by the condo owners association that governs Coolidge Village to address maintenance issues that have been deferred for years. The complex, developed in the late 1960s, is overseen by a board of trustees elected to represent the 28 condo owners who live there. A condo association owns the common areas of the site and Hampshire Property Management manages it.

“It’s more than just the trees,” Jopson said. “The property was very tired.”

In addition to new landscaping and tree plantings, the condo association plans to remove and replace the asphalt parking lot; clean, treat and repair damaged wood roofing shingles; replace the old-style pebble board siding on the condos; and install separate water and sewer meters for each unit rather than each building having a common meter.

Condo trustees believe the upgrades will improve the financial health of the association and the property’s appeal.

“We are confident that the end result of these projects will increase market value and enhance the continued interest to live in a downtown community,” Jopson said.

While the loss of the trees dramatically changes the neighborhood characteristic, the city’s senior land use planner, Carolyn Misch, sympathizes with the condo association’s dilemma because many of the trees were so close to the buildings. She faults the development’s initial landscaping plan for causing the problem.

Misch said the city has little authority when it comes to what owners do with trees that are on private property, with two exceptions. Sometimes the Planning Board will require a developer to plant a certain number of trees to meet parking requirements. This likely does not apply to the Coolidge Village condos because the complex was likely developed before the city began imposing such requirements. The city has no record of the condo project being approved, she said.

The second exception is a city rule that requires one shade tree for every 15 parking spaces in a private lot. Misch estimates that would mean they would be required to plant four trees, at the most, throughout the site to meet the requirement.