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Wellesley selectmen set fees for cutting down trees

Posted by Derek McLean  June 28, 2011 01:35 PM

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  Wellesley developers or homeowners wishing to cut down trees in order to build on their property may soon pay a hefty price. The Board of Selectmen approved a three-tier fee system Monday night for the removal of protected trees without replanting replacements.

The Tree Bylaw was accepted at Town Meeting in March and will take effect July 1.

“This program does not preclude anyone from cutting down trees,” said selectman Barbara Searle. “It just makes it so they pay a price to do so.”

The Bylaws are triggered if, on a property, there is a demolition of a structure with a footprint of 250 square feet or more, construction of a new structure on a vacant lot, construction of an addition that increases the existing footprint by 50% or more, or the construction of a retaining wall over four feet in height.

Trees that have a diameter of less than 10 inches, measured at so-called breast height, or 4 1/2 feet will not require a fee to cut down.
Trees with a diameter greater than 10 inches are considered protected trees. The fees will take effect if a protected tree is located along the perimeter of a residential property or on the entirety of a commercial property.
There are two ways a builder or resident can build on their property without having to pay a fee. One is if they protect the trees on the property when building. “We hope that people protect the trees that are already on the property,” said Searle.

The other option allows the fees to be waived if trees equivalent to half the diameter of those that are removed to be planted somewhere else on the property or an adjacent property.

The Board of Selectmen established the following rates for the removal of protected trees at Monday’s meeting:
For trees of a diameter between 10 and 20 inches, the fee will be $150 per inch past 10 inches.
The fee would rise to $250 per inch after 20 inches and to $400 per inch after 75 inches.

The fees go into a so-called tree bank, which are used to plant and maintain trees around town on public, and in some cases, private property.

“The Selectmen’s goal is to eliminate cutting down trees,” said Selectman Owen Dugan. “When you get to 75 inches, $400 is a pretty good price. We place a high value on our trees.”

“We need to be aware that Wellesley has been awarded Tree City USA,” said Searle, referring to an award given to the town by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service. The award honors the town’s commitment to community forestry. Wellesley has been awarded Tree City USA 28 straight years, the longest in state history. Searle said, “We need to be mindful that our trees are part of the community.”

Derek McLean can be reached at

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