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Neighbor Fears Prospect Of Tree Demolition

Mark Donovan is proof that you can go home again.

Last January the 1985 Staples High School graduate — now a new business entrepreneur — moved with his wife and youngest daughter into the Prospect Road house where he grew up. His mother — who moved there with her family 50 years ago — welcomed the companionship.

Now Donovan worries that the house he went home to may lose some of its greatest assets.

A developer bought the house next door. He’s ready to demolish the home — and the old oak trees that give the area so much beauty.

Some of them sit near the Donovans’ property line, within the next door property setback.

The grand oaks on the property line this fall ….

Donovan fears what the loss of those trees will do to the streetscape. He worries too about the effect on his and his neighbor’s centuries-old stone walls; the trees’ root systems run directly underneath.

Of course he’s concerned too about water runoff, from the increasingly severe storms we now see.

Donovan has one more worry: that Westport’s Tree Board — and every other town body — is powerless to stop the developer’s plans.

No regulations currently address the cutting of trees on private property.

“From time to time trees obviously need to come down,” Donovan says. “But why doesn’t the town protect those that don’t have to?”

… and more recently.

John and Melissa Ceriale — his across-the-street neighbors, who have spent 25 years building beautiful gardens and a meadow on their 8 acres of land — are concerned too. They’re helping Donovan try to convince developer Joe Feinleib of Coastal Construction to scale back his clear-cutting plans.

The Westport Garden Club is also making calls.

Donovan admits this is a personal issue. But, he says, his eyes have been opened to broader, town-wide concerns. Other places, like Greenwich and Nyack, have very strict rules about trees. Why, he wonders, don’t we?

The developer has already cut many trees on his property.

“There’s nothing to stop any developer,” Donovan notes. “If no one says they can’t, I don’t blame them for trying. Why does the town allow that to happen?

“They don’t have to care about me personally. But they should care about the history, the beauty and the environment of the entire town.”

Right now, the trees remain. But Donovan knows that any day, he could arrive home and see the land next door irrevocably altered.

“They say they’ll plant new trees,” he says of the developer. “I don’t understand that reasoning. If these old oak trees come down, we can’t get them back in my kids’ and grandchildren’s lifetimes.”

(Developer Joe Feinleib of Coastal Construction did not reply to a request for comment.)

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