Tag Archives: Mark Donovan

Mark Donovan Has Chutzpod!

Last month, Mark Donovan attempted to stop the demolition of a stand of oak trees on the Prospect Road property next to his own.

Though unsuccessful, his fight drew townwide attention.

Mark Donovan — dressed as Santa Claus — attempted to stop the demolition of oak trees on Prospect Road.

Now his effort has gone national.

Donovan — a 1985 Staples High School graduate, who now lives in his childhood home with his mother, wife and daughter — was the featured guest on this week’s episode of Chutzpod! This podcast — whose tagline is “Ancient texts for modern times,” and is hosted by activist and actor Josh Malina — covered the futile attempt, and Donovan’s subsequent desire to change local town tree ordinances.

Not for nothing, Chutzpod! is the #1 listened to podcast covering issues around Judaism in North America (according to Apple). On Friday it was #33 in the Religion & Spirituality category.

Donovan’s episode is timely. Tu Bishvat — the Jewish “New Year of the Trees” — begins tonight, and runs through tomorrow.

In “Bring Me a Shrubbery” — which includes a brief appearance by actor and Westport resident Scott Foley — Donovan says, “We live in a community. The community is not one individual or even two individuals. Just because something is legal and you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean that it actually makes it right to do it.” Some things “clearly affect everyone in the community.”

He adds his disappointment that people watching cheered as the trees were chopped down.

“It was not only embarrassing, but just confounding…it was shameful, really…it’s almost like the same victory lap that people take when they kill a dear with a shotgun.”

Donovan’s fight continues. Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission is drafting legislation to address tree cutting on private property.

(Click here to listen to Mark Donovan’s “Bring Me a Shrubbery” Chutzpod! episode. It is also available on many other platforms.)

Prospect Road Trees: Late Afternoon Report

As a chainsaw roared several yards away, Santa Claus sat in a swing, suspended from a tree branch.

That was the scene this afternoon on Prospect Road. A crew hired by contractor Joe Feinleib cut down the 2nd and 3rd of 5 oak trees in the setback near the property of next door neighbor Mark Donovan (aka Santa). Feinleib will build a new home on the land he’s clearing.

“I’m not going anywhere,” vowed Donovan, whose swing hangs from a branch on a near-100-year-old oak tree that hangs over his property.

“I’m not saying he’s not within his rights,” Donovan added, referring to his soon-to-be-new neighbor. “But I’m within my rights too. We’re 2 Americans, exercising our rights.”

One of the felled oak trees. According to owner Joe Feinleib, the rings show the stand of trees to be 96 years old.

Owner Joe Feinleib sent this photo to “06880.” “Turns out at least one is diseased and rotting in the middle,” he wrote..

Police were on hand earlier today. Feinleib had concerns about a news media drone flying over his property. Donovan had concerns about a bucket with tree workers over his property.

Westport police officers chat with Mark Donovan (dressed as Santa), sitting on a swing. The tree is on Joe Feinleib’s property; the branch hangs over Donovan’s.

Joe Feinleib’s property on the left, with trees being removed. Mark Donovan’s is on the right.


Prospect Road Trees, Day 2: The Cutting Continues

Santa Claus makes many magical things happen.

One thing he can’t do, though, is prevent the cutting of trees on private property.

One view of Santa swinging from the branch of a tree overhanging Mark Donovan’s property …

Yesterday, “06880” reported that a near-1oo-year-old oak tree in the setback near Mark Donovan’s Prospect Road home was felled.

Developer Joe Feinleib of Coastal Construction bought the property that the trees sit on. He is cutting a number of the trees there, before building a new residence for his family.

As of this morning, Donovan says, 3 of the 5 oaks — whose branches overhang his property — have been cut down.

Awaiting the inevitable, he hung a swing on one of the major branches. Santa stopped by to lend support.

… and another.

Meanwhile, Donovan invites interested Westporters to visit him, enjoy coffee and cake, and watch the final trees come down.

He and his family will be at 22 Prospect Road, behind the barn.


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.)