Trees’ Removal Kicks Up A Fuss

Thomas MacMillan PhotosAfter a developer turned a Fair Haven Heights property into a barren moonscape, Sal DeCola decided to try to prevent other builders from toppling too many trees without a plan in place.

DeCola (pictured), an alder who represents Morris Cove, this week submitted an order calling for a public hearing on the feasibility of “requiring developers who plan to strip their property of trees” to seek city permission first.

DeCola said he was moved to action after seeing the fate of 203 Russell St., near his mother’s house in the Heights.

Developer Mario Massimino last year began construction of two new houses there and the renovation of an existing home. After he chopped down trees and pulled out stumps, the city ordered him to cease and desist.

Massimino said he “misinterpreted” the city’s zoning regulations regarding clearing land and ran afoul of the law. He said he’s planning to meet with city planning officials this week to straighten matters out.

Meanwhile, neighbors are complaining about the state of the site, said Alder Rosa Santana, who represents the area. She said problems include erosion, dust, and possibly mosquito-friendly puddles.

“It’s been a long and exhausting problem,” said Santana. “The neighbors hate it.”

Massimino said he plans to address all of those complaints, just as soon as he can get the cease-and-desist order lifted.

DeCola said his call for a hearing is not intended to stop development, only to ensure that people have plans in place before it begins.

“It’s not that they can’t do it, but they need to have a game plan,” he said.

Google Maps ImagesDeCola said he grew up near the property. “It was beautiful land, with trees.”

Now, he said, the land is a pitted mess, with no controls for water runoff or soil erosion. When it rains, holes can fill with water that “can be there for weeks and breed mosquitoes,” DeCola said.

“We’ve got to have a game plan right from the beginning,” he said. “Once it’s done it’s too late.”

DeCola said his hearing will be a first step toward making sure that future developers don’t get to “too late.”

A visit to the site this week found a large area of barren, rocky, and uneven land. A huge mound of wood chips sat near a bulldozer (pictured).

A partially renovated house sits on the lot, with sheets of drywall stacked inside.

“The runoff is the big issue,” said Frank D’Amore, deputy director of New Haven government’s Livable City Initiative. Once trees are pulled out, nothing holds back the soil, he said. “It just makes a big mess.”

D’Amore said he got involved with enforcement at the site at the request of Alder Santana. The city sent two cease and desist letters; the second one went out last month.

Massimino said he never received the first letter. He stopped activity at the site as soon as he saw the follow-up.

“After we received the second one we’ve been proactive,” he said.

“We more or less misinterpreted the zoning” regulations, Massimino said. He said the confusion came from the fact that the land is divided up in to two parcels, although the city considers it a single property.

Massimino acknowledged that the site is “a little overgrown and disheveled right now.” He said he’ll address all the neighborhood complaints through a “site plan review” with the City Plan department.

“We’ll be reinforcing more erosion control,” he said. “Any kind of runoff won’t hit the street. ... We’re trying to keep our site as clean as possible.”

Massimino said he hopes to finish renovating the existing house and building two new ones in the next four or five months.


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posted by: RHeerema on June 5, 2014  9:36pm

Oh, how sad!  Trees make our city air breathable. Why such blatant disregard for health, habitat and beauty?  Thanks Alder DeCola!

posted by: Mike Fim on June 6, 2014  8:48am

Thank You and Kudos to Alderman Sal DeCola.
Once again you showed your commitment to all neighborhoods in our city. By your actions you are taking steps to help not only the Morris Cove area but our entire city.
Alderman Sal, Keep up the good work.
Thank You.

posted by: Steve NH on June 6, 2014  1:31pm

So why hasn’t Aderman DeCola come forward with his position on the proposed Tweed Airport expansion and all the destruction of homes, trees and basic quality of life this brings to our doorsteps. Alder DeCola hasn’t breathed a word to the threats that are being directed at our ward

Alder DeCola please read this post as an invitation to begin the dialogue with the community!

posted by: steve on June 6, 2014  5:41pm

Steve NH, what expansion are you talking about? The plan to pave the overruns will occur on airport property without closing any streets or drastically changing the area.
The trees are a hazard for all types of aircraft using Tweed because they project into the flight path.
Other airports do the same tree cutting so what is happening at Tweed is not unique only to Tweed.
To ensure the safety of the tens of thousands who fly in and out of Tweed, it necessitates the cutting of trees, but only those in the flight paths, not a wholesale cutting of all trees in the area surrounding the airport. 
Tweed could be a real asset to the area in bringing more business to the area and stop the leakage of air travelers to other airports who spend their money out of state, since Bradley field is almost in Massachusetts, I include it with other airports and area merchants who lose that source of income.

posted by: RHeerema on June 6, 2014  6:25pm

@Steve - The airport land belongs to taxpayers, since it’s largely subsidized by us. NOT having trees is a hazard to human health and environmental well-being.  Trees are the lungs of the planet.  Especially near the airport with the fumes—- and leaded AVGAS!—we need mature trees.  Expansion by paving the runway safety areas increases stormwater runoff issues & flooding as well.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on June 6, 2014  7:30pm

You are not suppose to do any major clearing of land until city plan looks at it. It’s a soil erosion issue that has been in place in this city for awhile.

posted by: steve on June 7, 2014  1:26pm

Steve NH. Ensuring the safety of the flying public is of the utmost importance. As I said, only trees in the flight path need to go and replacement trees can be planted in other nearby areas.
The airport receives funding as do other airports and that funding comes from local, state, federal and the FAA.
Tweed for way too long has been stifled and stunted in its growth resulting in a very low level of air service and the local area can support more than is currently offered.
Its time for Tweed to realize its potential as a regional commercial airport for all who live and do business in New Haven county.