Tree clearing crops up controversy in Deerfield at potential dollar store spot

  • The lot at the north corner of Mill Village Road and Routes 5 and 10 in South Deerfield has been clear-cut. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The lot at the north corner of Mill Village Road and Route 5&10 in South Deerfield has been clear cut. May 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz...

For the Gazette
Published: 5/9/2018 12:07:38 AM

DEERFIELD — Trees on state land that were cleared from a property on Mill Village Road and Routes 5 and 10 were cut without a permit, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has confirmed, following a dispute of the facts by the property owner.

A week ago, Gregory Gardner cleared dozens of trees lining his property bordering condominiums and next to the Rock, Fossil and Dinosaur Shop. He said Thursday he had a permit to cut down the trees, directly from MassDOT, which has the authority over those trees. Gardner hopes to open a discount variety store on the property.

Gardner called it a “miscommunication and misunderstanding,” and expressed his frustration about conversations on Facebook that said he illegally cut down the trees.

“How does it get blown out of proportion?” Gardner said. “Because people like to make up fake news.”

When first contacted on Wednesday, May 2, before a Select Board meeting that addressed the dispute, MassDOT’s spokesman Patrick Marvin said in a statement that it did not issue a permit for tree removal work along the state road. Marvin added MassDOT has notified the owner of the property and will be issuing a formal notice of violation.

“MassDOT is also currently evaluating future options and action that can be taken to address the unpermitted tree removal activities,” Marvin said.

Gardner did not agree with the state’s version and said the answer from the spokesman was incorrect. Instead, he suggested a follow-up call would set the record straight. But Marvin on Thursday confirmed his department’s statement.

Gardner said he had a permit from 2014, originally issued for the driveway, and since then he had received further approval from the state to clear trees, which he said a forester and an employee for the state confirmed to be in poor condition.

“The facts are, I was told to cut them by the tree guy from MassDOT,” Gardner said.

The driveway permit had expired, according to MassDOT.

Tree cutting

Over a week ago, when Gardner cut down the trees, residents from the condominium association next to the property contacted Select Board Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness, who contact MassDOT.

Within minutes, she said she was called back by officials in Boston and was told there was, in fact, a permit. Ness, at the time, acknowledged there was nothing she could really do, aside from letting those concerned follow up with the state.

Elizabeth Klement decided to also contact MassDOT and, by Tuesday, she was told by the department that Gardner did not have a permit. She presented this information at the Select Board last week, where she read a letter as a formal statement.

“Those of you who have seen the now empty landscape previously filled with beautiful, old trees, know how drastic it is,” Klement said in the statement. “I’m very concerned about the destruction of state trees, as well as the effect on our neighborhood and community.”

Ness told Klement and about half a dozen other residents there in support that the Selectboard will advocate on their behalf.

Dollar store

While some residents have been concerned this was done by the prospective business, it was not. No one has formally bought the land yet, according to the Deerfield Assessor’s Office. Gardner said he was clearing the trees in poor health in preparation for a potential sale.

Residents said without the trees, there is no cover from possible construction and lights.

Ness said there is grant money for some oak trees that could be used to replace some of the loss, but the Selectboard will wait to see a decision by MassDOT first.

To people concerned about a store coming to that space, Gardner said it’s properly zoned for it and he is sure the Planning Board will take care of any further specifics.

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