Coverage of the meetings leading up to the Adams Road tree battle
The Planning Board granted final approval to a subdivision plan for an Adams Road property Richard Flier and his wife plan to develop into a home for their family.
As part of his application, Flier asked that the Board allow him to address an issue with sight distance at the proposed driveway to the larger, 11.9-acre property by relocating boulders along the rock wall situated in front of the parcel.
“We are comfortable the sight distance can be achieved by relocating a few stones along the wall. The alternative would be setting the whole wall further back, removing mature trees. We really want to maintain the scenic nature of the Adams Road corridor and the area,” Kevin Leonard of Northpoint Engineering told the Board.
But it would be the preference of town staff to see the wall moved back and the land improved to increase sight distance, according to Assistant Public Works Director John Trottier.
Flier said because the roots of several trees along the road have grown into the rock wall, if it’s moved back, the trees will have to be removed, changing the character of the historic byway.
“We met with the Heritage Commission, and after discussing several options, they agreed the existing farm access road is the best location for a driveway,” Leonard said. “It’s an established location, and it’s used regularly by (Mack’s) farm year-round. It sees a lot of traffic and the stopping sight distance works. The sight line works – to the left, it’s unimpeded as it exists today, and to the east, the existing stone wall encroaches on all sight distances in a few locations. We believe wall stones can be relocated along the wall to allow for the sight distance and not have any real detrimental effect to the wall itself.”
Flier said several engineers worked on their plan and they consulted with planning staff in several meetings.
“When we measured the sight line, we have the sight distance over the wall; but then the 18 inches below that line to provide when we have snow is where the sight line crosses over the wall,” Leonard said. “The stones encroach up into that sight distance. Mr. Flier appreciates the scenic nature of area, and we feel this is a reasonable compromise to achieve. We are asking for some relief to move a couple stones but don’t feel it’s an unreasonable request.”
Member Al Sypek expressed concern with the increased potential for an accident without appropriate sight distance and asked that a condition for final approval of the site plan be that if required sight distance is not achieved by moving the stones, the wall be moved back from the road.
“Sight distance on a narrow road means a lot to me, and that’s the primary problem,” Sypek said.
“If we can’t achieve sight distance with the proposal we have shown, when we’re building the driveway, we would get the equipment out there and move the stones to achieve the sight distance and have someone from the Town check to see they are satisfied with that,” Leonard said.
“This access has been used by cars and trucks for a long time and it hasn’t created any safety issues,” Flier noted.
“It looks like you would be doing quite a bit of change to the terrain of the trees if moving the wall back. It would damage the roots of those trees and that’s part of the character of the road,” member Chris Davies said. “In my opinion this is something that makes more common sense than the letter of the law – especially when dealing with a road like this that has been deemed by the State as scenic.
“I think it’s admirable you want to preserve the character of the area,” Davies added. “Most people just want to get the maximum out of their land. It looks like there is a lot of traffic on that road and there has not been an accident (at the access) reported so far. I would like to see the road stay as is and you get the sight distance as required.”
“We feel very privileged to have been able to buy this property from the Cross family and our intention is to maintain the importance and beauty of that area and do as little as possible with that land,” Flier said.
“The plan is nicely done and I appreciate your trying to preserve the character of the area,” member Leitha Reilly said.
“I congratulate you for trying to save those trees and that wall,” member Ann Chiampa agreed.
John Farrell of 4 Hancock Drive asked Leonard if the plan was developed working from the true center of Adams Road, recalling concerns over inconsistencies about where the center of the road was located when the Planning Board considered an application to put in a fence for an Adams Road property several years prior.
Leonard told Farrell the plan is based on accurate measurements of the road and area surrounding the property.
Kathy Wagner of 7 Fiddler’s Ridge raised concern that Flier’s access could create traffic safety issues on Adams Road if the property is subdivided and developed into eight homes.
When asked if the comment were appropriate to the discussion of the two-lot subdivision proposed, Chairman Art Rugg said Wagner’s comment strayed from what the Board was considering.
Flier told Rugg during the meeting that Wagner threatened him publicly at Town Hall, saying she will prevent him from developing his land. He asked Rugg to look into Wagner’s threat.
Farrell raised a point of order, calling Flier’s statement a personal attack.
“Mr. Flier is completely wrong,” said Wagner. “I chose not to address his claim during the meeting because I have no idea what he’s talking about. He told me he’s going in to develop the Cross property and I told him I’m going to be a NIMBY (not in my backyard).”
Rugg asked Flier to limit his comments to the plans being considered, noting after the meeting that Flier also digressed from facts germane to what the Board was considering.
In his meeting with the Heritage Commission last month, Flier said his plans for developing the Adams Road property are as minimal as possible, noting he and his wife plan to retire on the land and that the home has been designed so that they may enjoy views of the apple orchards on the property.
Wagner appeared at that Heritage Commission meeting briefly, advising the Commission not to give Flier special treatment.
“I just think he shouldn’t be given any special treatment. I’m very concerned because the Planning Board didn’t ask to see the site distance engineering on this,” Wagner said. “Everyone’s google-eyed over this and I think he needs to be treated like everyone else.”
Wagner said her only concern is with a potential curb cut on Adams Road.
“Adams Road cannot handle a curb cut. I just don’t want his driveway to turn into a roadway. If that’s not the case, I don’t care,” she said. “I have no problem with Richard or his land. He can develop it as he likes, I just don’t appreciate being falsely accused.”
In addition to granting final approval for the site plan, the Board granted two waivers for development of the property with a 6-1 vote.
The waivers will allow an overhead power connection by means of the existing utility pole on the north side of Adams Road to the proposed home on the 11.9-acre parcel, as well as to exempt the existing driveway to an existing home on the smaller, 1.6-acre subdivided parcel from the requirement for certification of the proper sight distances at the location of the driveway on Adams Road.
The driveway was constructed prior to the adoption of the Town’s ordinance, and the small Cape it serves was built in 1959.
Trottier told the Board planning staff, the Department of Public Works and engineering staff do not support the waiver due to sight distance issues.
Member Rick Brideau voted against the waivers due to those sight distance issues.
The Planning Board voted to allow an Adams Road homeowner to try to save a tree obstructing the sight distance at the end of the property’s driveway.
Richard Flier, who is building a home at 43 Adams Road, said the healthy, 22-inch maple “has a future” and is an important feature of the State-designated Scenic Way.
Rather than cut down the more than 100-year-old tree, Flier asked the Board to allow him to remove the root that obstructs the sight distance by six inches.
“It would render the root ineffective. But if you chop out the root, it doesn’t mean the tree won’t live,” said Flier, who consulted with an arborist. “I’ll do whatever you want, it’s just a beautiful tree.”
Flier added he would write into his deed a commitment to maintain the root and continue to cut back any new growth into the sight distance.
“I want to save the tree because there aren’t a lot of them there,” he said. “We’ve saved the road the way it is because it’s beautiful and it’s special in our town.”
But Assistant Director of Public Works and Engineering John Trottier argued the site distance should be cleared to achieve the required amount.
“Looking to the west, they had to get a variance because there was a large oak tree that impedes the site distance,” he said. “He can put something in the deed saying it will be maintained, but how do you enforce that?”
“We have clear-cut rules and I think we have to follow that. I’m pretty knowledgeable about trees and shrubbery. I think if you take 6 inches out of the tree root, it’ll be a matter of time before that tree does die,” member Scott Benson said. “It’s a clear-cut rule, line of sight. We have to obey that.”
“I come from public safety, so sight distance is pretty important to me,” member Al Sypek said. “I agree with Scott. You can cut this or that out, but there’s no way to enforce in the future anything addressing this issue. The simplest thing is to just remove it.”
Member Ann Chiampa argued in favor of giving the tree a chance, noting the health of many other trees along the road is deteriorating.
“I’d love to give it a shot and if doesn’t work, so be it. But it’s a healthy tree,” she said.
Member Mary Soares agreed, proposing they also not cut into the root of the tree.
“This is 6 inches we’re talking about. There are so many places in town where the sight line is obstructed. I come out of the Home Depot parking lot and I have a hard time and we don’t make them take trees down,” she said. “And this is a scenic highway and we’re losing enough trees as it is.”
Soares additionally noted the driveway has served as an access for Mack’s Apples for years with no issue.
“I completely agree with Mary, I don’t think the tree should go,” member Ted Combes said. “I don’t think 6 inches is going to stop an accident from happening. I don’t think it’s reasonable to take this tree out.”
Several residents also urged the Board to allow the tree to remain untouched.
Russ Lagueux of 2 Fiddler’s Ridge said he has been driving Adams Road for more than two decades and that a location to the east, where there have been multiple accidents, is a more significant concern.
Soares noted there has not been an accident at Flier’s driveway in all the time Mack’s employees have been going in and out of the property.
“While they may not have been cars, there was daily traffic that went in every day working and there was more than one vehicle going in and out,” she said. “That is not the part of the road, as Mr. Lagueux said, where there is any issue.”
The Board agreed to give Flier the opportunity to cut the root in hopes the tree will remain healthy, but, if the tree dies, Flier agreed to remove it.