New tree-cutting problem before Ferrisburgh board

FERRISBURGH — While the Vorsteveld Farm LLC tree-cutting case in a Ferrisburgh road right-of-way that dates back three years and theoretically could involve a $1 million fine awaits an Environment Court date, another smaller similar case has cropped up this spring in the town.
On May 5 the Ferrisburgh selectboard will discuss whether to fine Ferrisburgh resident Bernie Dam up to $500 for cutting down a tree within the town’s Button Bay Road right-of-way late this winter without first seeking permission.
Ferrisburgh Tree Warden Clifton Mix made that recommendation to the board in a March 4 email. Mix alleged that Dam cut down a cedar tree with a 10-inch diameter without first obtaining a required permit. 
Mix submitted his email after speaking on March 3 to Dam’s neighbor and complainant Walter Reed, a town auditor and planning commission member. 
Reed attended the selectboard’s online April 21 meeting to support Mix’s recommendation.
Reed said the selectboard should not allow continued unpermitted action within Ferrisburgh’s road rights-of-way, especially given the ongoing court case and possible settlement talks with the owners of the Vorsteveld Farm. 
“Without action taken to all of them the precedent is set they can do what they (residents) want,” Reed said.
Reed added, “Will he continue like the Vorstevelds? … Will it have any reaction back to the town if we treat one and not the other?”
Selectman Chris Campbell wanted to make sure Dam was up to speed on the laws. 
“Has anybody spoken to him in the past?” Campbell asked.
Reed said Dam had discussed right-of-way issues before the planning commission, and other selectboard members noted Dam had appeared before the board to support the Vorstevelds. 
“He’s fully aware of what’s going on with the Vorstevelds,” said Selectman Jim Benoit. “He knows he’s not supposed to be doing that.”
The board agreed to send Dam a letter inviting him to their May 5 meeting and saying they were considering whether or not to fine him. 
In an interview later in the week Selectboard Chairwoman Jess James addressed the wider issue of residents violating town road rights-of-way.
Some did so willfully, including a Shellhouse Mountain Road case John Bull brought up, but James said others were not aware that road rights-of-way typically extended onto properties that residents maintain. 
She said in hopes of heading off future problems Ferrisburgh would take steps, such as putting information on the town website and on Front Porch Forum, to inform residents they must apply for a permit for most major work near the road.
“We have all these people at home right now, and they’re all going to be working on their houses, and who knows what they’re going to be doing in the rights-of-way,” James said. “Let’s try to make this a little more streamlined. What can we do to get the education out to everybody?”

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