Just seconds after I posted a report from Prospect Road — noting that a tree crew was on hand to cut a stand of old oak trees, overhanging Mark Donovan’s Prospect Road property, with the Donovans sitting underneath attempting to stop it — Mark sent me a video.
It’s just 35 seconds long. At the start, a contractor uses a chainsaw on one of the trees.
Just 3 hours after this morning’s “06880” story about the possible destruction of a stand of grand oak trees hanging over Mark Donovan’s property on Prospect Road, a work crew arrived with chainsaws.
They were ready to cut the trees, to make way for a developer’s new home.
Donovan — who is concerned about environmental and esthetic impacts, along with effects on the stone walls supported by the trees’ root systems, and possible changes to water runoff — and his family reacted quickly. They sat underneath the canopy, on their own land.
Concerned for safety, the crew has not yet begun cutting.
The Donovans, meanwhile, served coffee and cake to the work crew.
The tree-cutting crew, near the Donovans’ property line at Prospect Road.
Westport Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin noted this morning’s “06880” story on trees with interest. She writes:
Westport does not have regulations protecting mature trees. However, the P&Z — via its Regulations Revision Subcommittee — is working to change this.
The Subcommittee met on this issue in early December. They’re drafting a regulation to protect mature trees in the setbacks, stop the wholesale clear cutting of properties, and ensure that when mature trees are removed, new trees are planted.
Provisions will be made for immediate removal of a tree if there is a safety issue.
The Regulations Revision Subcommittee will take this up again in January. I hope interested residents, and builders, will join the conversation
Click here for a Westport News story about the early December meeting.
Trees cut on Prospect Road, in preparation for a new house.
In other tree news, Westport Journal reports that tree warden Bruce Lindsay will be replaced on January 1 by Ben Sykas. Click here for the full story.
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.)
After Roe Halper’s husband Chuck died in 2017, the noted artist wanted to make a tribute incorporating emotion, interpretation and design. She used lndia ink with Chinese brushes to create a book called Passage, about Chuck’s passage through life.
“Although I was thinking of him when I created it, it has a universal theme,” Roe says.
Passage is available at the Westport Library Store, Westport Museum of History & Culture (formerly the Westport Historical Society) and Barrett Book Store in Darien, and directly from Roe (203-226-5187; email@example.com).
Dr. Suniya Luthar is familiar to many Westporters.
The emerita professor of psychology at Columbia’s Teachers College led a longitudinal study on youth and resilience here. She chose Westport because of its high number of high-achieving professionals, and the emphasis on status and achievement.
That study was referenced in a guest essay in today’s New York Times. The piece looks at the mental health of young people today. Click here to read. But beware: The news is not good.
Psressures — academic, social and other — are high on teenagers today. (Photo/Dan Woog)
That’s the name of the new movie from Todd Rawiszer. The 2007 Staples High School graduate produced and co-wrote the film.
Shot in Westport and Pennsylvania, it follows 2 women who must trust each other to survive the longest night of their lives. They are “badass, strong women,” as well as good Samaritans.
“Goodbye Honey” was screen at festivals across the country, winning Best Thriller Feature, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor at the Garden State Film Festival, Best Lead Performance at the Nightmares Film Festival, and Best Actress at NOLA Horror Film Festival.
It will be released May 11 on cable, satellite and digital HD>
Former Westporter Alex Lasry is running for the United States Senate.
The 33-year-old Democrat hopes to unseat Republican Ron Johnson. Lasry has taken a leave from his position as Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president. His father — a billionaire businessman and hedge fund executive — co-owns the NBA team. The Lasry family first lived on Sylvan Road North. Marc Lasry now lives on Beachside Avenue.
Before the Bucks, Alex Lasry worked in the Obama White House for senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. He was host committee chair for the 2020 Democratic Convention, which was planned for Milwaukee but held virtually due to COVID. (Hat tip: Gloria Gouveia)
To celebrate, Westport’s Tree Board announces our town’s newest honor: The Arbor Day Foundation has named us a “2020 Tree City USA.”
The award (which we share with 3,600 other communities) recognizes that we make “planting and care of trees a priority.”
Former Tree Board chair Dick Fincher, tree warden Bruce Lindsay and assistant town attorney Eileen Lavigne Flug helped obtain certification.
Proving that we really are a Tree City USA, this year’s Arbor Day celebration includes tree plantings at the police station on Jesup Road, and Greens Farms fire station.
Planting a tree at the Greens Farms fire station …
The new trees celebrate first responders who worked diligently during the pandemic.
The Tree Board will be active in coming months. They’ll sponsor educational events, and a celebration of oak trees, which reduce runoff, flooding, noise and pollution. Oaks also host over 400 types of caterpillars that birds need for food.
(For more information on the Tree Board, click here.)
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