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CL&P tree trimming riles Stonington residents

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published October 09. 2013 4:00AM
Tim Cook/The Day
Bruce Wineberg talks Tuesday about the tree cutting being done by CL&P along Lantern Hill Road near his home in Stonington.

Stonington - Town officials and Connecticut Light & Power representatives plan to inspect each of the trees on Moss Street in Pawcatuck Friday afternoon in an effort to agree which ones have to be removed and which ones have to be trimmed and to what extent.

Moss Street residents have criticized CL&P's plan to remove or trim the pear trees that line the scenic street as excessive.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Lantern Hill Road resident Bruce Wineberg criticized the trimming that crews hired by CL&P have done along that road over the past two weeks as excessive and unnecessary.

"Connecticut is about country roads with trees. That's why I moved here," he said. "I'm just trying to keep them from ruining it. We're talking about something that is irreplaceable."

CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross said Tuesday that the trimming and removal along Lantern Hill Road, Moss Street and other areas of town are part of the utility's statewide effort to decrease power outages in future storms.

At a Board of Selectmen meeting two weeks ago, residents said the cutting would damage the character of the historic shaded street and decrease their property values.

CL&P's plan calls for cutting all branches within 8 feet on either side of the power lines from 10 feet below the lines to 15 feet above.

Because many of the 52 trees on Moss Street are right underneath the wires, a CL&P official has told residents that if the trees are trimmed and not taken down, they will not look like trees because of the extensive pruning that would be needed.

The Board of Selectmen asked CL&P to come back with a revised plan based on what it heard from residents. CL&P would like to do the work this year but needs approval from town Tree Warden Paul Rohacik.

Meanwhile, First Selectman Ed Haberek, who lives on Moss Street, said Tuesday that the town has numbered and inventoried each of the trees in advance of Friday's meeting in an effort to come up with a plan about how to manage each of them. He said about 20 of the trees have some type of problem but the rest do not.

Gross said that when trimming is needed, CL&P wants to work with towns, local tree wardens and residents to find a solution.

On Tuesday, Wineberg pointed to an 80-foot-long section of Lantern Hill Road next to his property where oak and hickory trees were cut down last Friday. A few of the tree stumps were more than 25 feet from the power lines.

He said some of the trees were as tall as 80 feet and as much as 150 years old. Wineberg, who is retired, said when tree crews showed up Friday, his neighbors were at work so he tried to do whatever he could to stop work, including talking to the CL&P arborist and police.

"But I couldn't stop them. I tried every way I knew," he said.

Wineberg said neighbors were told there would be some light pruning, but he said the work has been more like clear cutting. Trimming along many sections of the street appear to be according to the parameters set by CL&P.

Gross said property owners are always notified of the work. A revised state law now only requires CL&P to notify affected property owners of the work instead of getting their permission, even if the trees are on private property.

Gross said most utility customers understand the need for the trimming.

"The challenge is maintaining a balance. We understand our customers' concerns about trees, but we also understand they want reliable power," he said.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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