Ferrisburgh board talks to farmers about tree cutting in right of way

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard on Tuesday met with farmers Hans and Gerard Vorsteveld about their extensive tree cutting in the town right-of-way along Arnold Bay Road, work that Board Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence termed as “massive,” and was described in the meeting agenda as “excessive.”
In all, Lawrence said, 200 trees with a trunk diameter of more than 10 inches were cut down, and stumps remain.
Lawrence called the meeting “cordial,” but acknowledged the Vorstevelds and town officials don’t fully agree on whether there should be what she called “repercussions” for the removal of many mature trees.
Lawrence quoted two statutes indicating prior approval by Ferrisburgh tree warden Clifton Mix is necessary prior to any major tree work in the town right-of-way.
“They don’t really see they did anything wrong,” she said. “The board really feels they need to understand the statutes. The tree warden thinks they need to understand it’s not OK. There’s not a complete meeting of the minds, but it was a friendly conversation.”
Lawrence said the farmers — who had previously been involved in a right-of-way dispute in Panton regarding a structure in a main farmyard — wanted to plant crops closer to the road. She believes no ill intent was involved.
“They did not see it as a massacre of trees,” Lawrence said. “I honestly think they didn’t know about the statutes.”
Lawrence said the selectboard expects the Vorstevelds at least to remove stumps.
“At this point, the damage is done,” she said. “It has to be cleaned up.”
 Lawrence said the board provided the farmers with copies of the statutes and hope they will be open to planting trees to replace some of those they removed.
“They seemed to be friendly to that idea,” Lawrence said, adding no promises were made.
“The consensus is we’ll meet again,” she added.
The board appreciated the Vorstevelds’ willingness to open a dialogue on the issue.
 “We were vey pleased they attended the meeting,” Lawrence said.
In other business, the board:
• Discussed a new professional audit of town books from this past July to February that uncovered deficiencies that included failures to file W2s and W3s to federal authorities. Lawrence said the board will review the audit with treasurer Deb Healey at its May 16 meeting.
• Heard from town Vermont Green Line Committee Chairman Craig Heindel that the VGL companies have switched attorneys. The town and the companies that are negotiating to use town road rights-of-way to run an underground power line could reach an agreement in the next few months, and Lawrence said she hopes the change in counselors not set back a process that could be lucrative for Ferrisburgh.
“We’re moving at a snail’s pace, but we’re getting there,” she said.
The town’s VGL Committee will host an informational meeting at town hall at 7 p.m. on May 18 with Department of Public Service as well as Vermont Green Line representatives.
Reporter Andy Kirkaldy is at [email protected].

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