[OPINION] Stop & Shop — & Chop — Trees

Alert “06880” reader — and Greens Farms Association president — Art Schoeller writes:

Not one, not two, but all the trees lining the Post Road in front of Stop & Shop are headed for the chipper.

Surprised? So was the board of directors of the Greens Farms Association after listening to Westport Tree Board member Dick Stein at our last monthly meeting.

He shared large-scale aerial drawings of the Connecticut Department of Transportation safety improvements for the Post Road (click here for details). The shocker was his commentary and insight exposing details of tree removal not covered by state officials.

Dick shared that the proposed safety improvements and addition of a sidewalk require taking away some of the grass strip, and relocating the utility poles closer to the Stop & Shop parking lot. The poles would then be too close to the trees, so they would have to be removed.

Some of the trees bordering the Stop & Shop parking lot.

Twelve sycamores and 1 elm tree would be affected. (Looking more closely at the State presentation, 12 trees would be cut down and the one remaining on the west end of the parking lot might be saved.) Dick believes these trees were planted as part of the “Greening of the Post Road” which began in 1972, making them nearly 50 years old. The trees are 70 to 90 feet tall.

There could also be tree loss across the street, on the Bulkley Avenue portion of the project.

Aside from the obvious environmental advantages,  these trees provide an aesthetic benefit of scale, softening of the area, and noise reduction.

Installing underground utility service during the road excavation and construction might allow the trees to remain intact.

At this point the state has not offered to replace any trees. Small trees such as dogwoods, flowering cherry and hawthorn would be permitted under Planning & Zoning Commission regulations.

The proposed project start date is spring of 2021, with completion estimated for fall of 2023. There are safety benefits to this project, including sidewalks which do not currently exist.

Other areas of road improvement will be on the Post Road in front of Fresh Market, and the Hillspoint Road and Roseville Road intersection. Both locations will probably result in the loss of additional trees as well.

The Fresh Market shopping center. Trees were removed from here a few years ago.

The state Department of Transportation has already closed the period for public comment. They have been unresponsive to requests to reopen them, and hold an additional meeting.

We ask concerned Westporters to contact town officials and state representatives to get this issue back into a public forum for comment and debate.

Is the answer to bury the utilities, or some other redesign that takes less expansion of the Post Road? Let’s have that debate, and find a way to save these trees!

36 responses to “[OPINION] Stop & Shop — & Chop — Trees

  1. Based on how awesome the state department of transportation had been in commuting north or south on highways or public transportation, you have to assume that every decision they make is going to suck

  2. Jen Johnson has been actively advocating in regards to this project as well. She reached out to RTM members in July so we may write in on several nuances of this issue before public comments closed. One point she urged CT DOT to consider (I followed suit) was to replace any trees with landscaping under the power lines and add new trees on the north side of Post Road. From an aesthetic perspective, our tree-dotted main streets make our town beautiful; From an environmental perspective, we need to replace any trees we take. I urge everyone to get involved in this issue which will have significant change on our Post Road.

  3. Bring on the sidewalks-whatever it takes. This town is a walking nightmare. Taking my grandchildren to Stop and Shop on foot is a real challenge.

    • Gina, I agree that we don’t have nearly enough sidewalks, but there’s an entire paved parking lot just next to these trees,no sidewalk necessary. Thanks to volcano mulching, trees all around town will be dying in a few years. Let’s not take down healthy mature trees when we don’t have to – and we don’t have to here.

  4. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70 BA, MA, JDE

    Why not take the space for the sidewalk out of the existing parking lot? Seems to be the least of several evils. Leave the trees in peace.

  5. What safety improvements? ;
    1) Underground powerlines are protected from storms
    2) Sidewalks protect people and encourage healthy behaviour.
    3) Trees are beautiful, shade the sidewalk, and are environmentally desirable
    Cons: Utility Poles with power lines are dangerous, ugly, outdated.
    There are no safety improvements to moving utility poles, getting rid of them are.
    What else needs to be said?…. Names, Addresses, & Phone #’s of those empowered to stop this.
    Thank You, Mr. Schoeller,
    PS- Don’t forget to vote every chance you get.

  6. This definitely seems like the cheapest and fastest way out – if we speak up, they will do better, even if it takes more time and $$. It would be a blight on the street, our air and anyone who does walk the Post Road to take down those trees. Please fight this!

  7. This is insanity on a large scale, a crime against nature and proves that CT DOT is has no community conscience or concern..shame on them and those who advocate for this travesty.

  8. Simple answer is bury the lines

  9. Cathy Walsh P&Z Commissioner

    The P&Z commission has gone in writing to Conn Dot regarding this issue. While we applauded their commitment to improve RT 1 we asked that the State re-evaluate placement of the side walks at Stop and Shop and spare the trees. We asked that that they respect our zoning regs and replace any other smaller trees which may be affected. We are doing what we can to spare these trees and all others.

    The comment period is over, but my suggestion to the Greens Farms Assoc. and to everyone else is to ignore that fact and send your comments anyhow. Do it asap. The more emails received the better. The general public should be involved too.

    Hugh H. Hayward, PEmi
    Transportation Principal Engineer
    Connecticut Department of Transportation
    2800 Berlin Turnpike
    PO Box 317546
    Newington CT 06131-7546

    RE STATE PROJECT NUMBER 158-215

    hugh.hayward@ct.gov

  10. Regardless of trees, We should rule that any large road improvements include putting the power lines lines underground. It would entirely pay for itself in a few storms. I have long failed to understand why this has not been the case, especially when the Post Road was being torn up to install the high voltage transmission lines.

  11. Who is buying all this lumber which arrives at side spot on I95 just east of Sherwood exit, northside.
    Dogwoods are OK but rangy,.my little ornamental cherry was pretty for about 15 years but is now rotten and vine covered. Hawthorn is supposed to be very healthful but I have no experience with a living tree in these parts.
    Why bother with replacing trees…just make Westport a mini JFK. There’s our airport, right in our own backyard.
    We’ll need drone landing spots and what about foreign visitors in UFOs.

  12. Dick Lowenstein

    To create a sidewalk parallel to the Post Road, why not move the striped parking spaces more toward the stores. The parking-lot roadway is already wide enough to accommodate some narrowing.

  13. Saving these trees is so important to out Town. Put the utility lines underground, and keep these beautiful trees!. Needless to say, putting utilities underground will add reliability to our electrical grid. These trees were planted approximately 40 years ago to create a beautiful townscape. These trees also serve as homes to many birds. . The time is now. We need this done right. We implore the DOT to do this the right way and make this project an important improvement for Westport
    Karen Kramer
    RTM District 5

  14. As Jen Johnson said when she recently targeted a beautiful tree in my neighborhood for death – “I want to put people ahead of trees.”
    Keep up the good work, Jen. Looks like you’re doing a great job on the Post Road.

  15. Want to make post road area safer? Then sidewalks are needed up and down the entire post road not just in random places. Is that going to happen with this project?

  16. PS. where is the link to the actual plan?
    PPS. for those of you saying take away part of the parking lot… the parking lot is likely owned by a private individual… the land adjacent to the street could be state owned, it could be in a right of way, could be easier to eminent domain, etc. I am all for saving trees but need a realistic plan.

    • Joshua – I’m not saying take away from the parking lot, private property or public – just use it, pedestrians. And don’t say it’s unsafe. People walk through and around all over when parking.

  17. Norwalk’s section of route 1 is ugly. I see Westport is trying to emulate us! Don’t do it Westport! Save those trees! What a shame if Westport’s portion were to become as unattractive as Norwalk’s.

  18. Raymond F Skidgell

    They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot. Counting Crows

  19. This is terrible! There should be a way to save the trees. Please reconsider.

  20. There is room under the trees today for sidewalk. The issue is the plan to widen the Post Road here. No need whatsoever to barge in on the parking lot.

  21. This is an object lesson in what can happen when one exhorts DOT engineers to make “improvements” to a state right-of-way. Pedestrian safety is important, of course, but these guys will gladly use that as a crude pretext to fritter away precious taxpayer money and leave residents with an aggressive, ugly heat corridor. The stand of beautiful, mature shade trees in front of Stop & Shop represents a rare success story in the long struggle to reestablish a calming and cooling natural streetscape along the Post Road within our borders. The proposal to remove them is outrageous and borders on planning malpractice. Plainly, there are reasonable alternatives which address pedestrian mobility while safeguarding those natural elements which contribute in myriad ways to our quality of life. The broader anti-environment, impervious surface assault is beginning to leave its mark on Westport. And it’s not in plus column.

  22. Mary Cookman Schmerker

    Often I refrain from commenting because I feel I should leave an issue alone since I no longer live in Westport. This one involves trees and the Post Road.
    I finally decided to add my two cents.
    I remember the area before the Stop and Shop Center was built. I also remember when we commonly referred to the Post Road as The Boston Post Road. The Post Road has historical significance and I love the way it looks with the trees now. It reminds me of the really old days. AND…under ground utilities have wonderful benefits. The lines and poles do not come down in storms and are not a visual blight on an area. Stick up for yourselves and keep fighting this one.

  23. One thought: How about a petition on Change.org to the decision maker? I live out of state and it should probably be started by a someone or a group in Westport.

  24. I perused the comments for reasons to not start with underground utilities…I saw none. I don’t get why this isn’t happening at every excavation in town. I grew up in Denver in a new-in-1973/4 suburb and all utilities were buried. I do not ever remember losing power, and we def had 3-5 foot snowfalls (that, as a child, were awesome, but that area of CO is a high desert so- not a lot of old-growth trees). Admittedly, it would be cost prohibitive to do it all at once, but if the town of Westport and/or state is doing a dig anyway, why not instigate the work and progress toward moving all possible utilities underground? it might be more $ out at the time, but my understanding is that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the cost of creating underground conduits will pay for itself in the long run. Not an engineer/town planner,etc., so I do not profess to be an expert!!! Honestly would welcome a reasoned answer. I’m quite curious.

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