Farmers removing Arnold Bay Road stumps; Ferrisburgh still talking to attorney

FERRISBURGH — Farmers Hans and Gerard Vorsteveld told the Ferrisburgh selectboard on Tuesday they have started removing stumps from along Arnold Bay Road, but that poor weather has slowed their efforts to clean up. In early April they cut down about 2,000 trees and shrubs, illegally according to Ferrisburgh officials because they were in the town right of way.
“They have started the process, but they’ve had to stop because of the rain. They have been in the process of removing the stumps,” said Ferrisburgh selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence on Wednesday. “They have removed some … They have the equipment down there.”
Back in April, the Vorstevelds told the board they were not aware it was illegal to cut down the trees and they were seeking more open land to plant crops.
“What’s on the record is they did not realize they were breaking the law,” said Lawrence, who described a “cordial” discussion between the board and the Vorstevelds, and among the Vorstevelds and about a dozen people who attended the meeting to complain about the tree cutting.  
According to Ferrisburgh Tree Warden Clifton Mix, the Vorsteveld Farm, which owns land in Panton and Ferrisburgh, could technically be fined up to $1,088,000 for cutting down 1,870 trees and shrubs with trunks of less than six inches in diameter and another 306 trees with larger trunks, all along a 0.75-mile stretch of Arnold Bay Road. Mix recommended a fine as well as “full rehabilitation” of the area where the trees were cut.
The board has forwarded the issue to its town attorney and also informed the Vorstevelds of Mix’s conclusion and of the involvement of the attorney in a May 16 letter.
Lawrence said the board is happy to hear of the cleanup effort, but will continue to explore legal options.
“It’s a positive first step, but we’re still seeking legal counsel,” she said.
On the Tuesday selectboard agenda was resident Mary Hurlie to speak on the tree cutting, and Lawrence said others addressed the issue during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“Her (Hurlie’s) concerns were we want the selectboard to do something about it, we want the stiffest penalties possible, and what’s the timeline,” Lawrence said. “What are they going to do with the stumps, and when are they going to clean them up? Those were the biggest concerns.”
Lawrence said the board discussed its legal avenue, and the Vorstevelds described the steps they were taking.
“It was very cordial,” Lawrence said. “Their big thing was, ‘Gee, why didn’t someone stop by if there were concerns? Why didn’t the neighbors stop by?’ Actually, before the people left they exchanged phone numbers.”
In other business, the selectboard:
•  Set its second hearing on the updated town plan for June 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Route 7 town office building.
•  Heard from the Ferrisburgh Vermont Green Line Committee head that he had it confirmed from a Vermont Green Line Alliance representative the evening before that the VGL companies had suspended its effort to get a state permit, at least temporarily. Lawrence said it was not immediately clear what that decision meant for the companies’ discussions with Ferrisburgh. 

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