This was a sad week for the environment in our neighborhood. We just lost two big, beautiful, healthy trees — and as far as I can tell, for no good reason.
Some background: on the opposite side of our street, there used to be a small ranch house. It wasn't in great condition and couldn't find a buyer for a long time. But when the real estate market went nuts during the pandemic, a developer bought it up and started trying to sell, not the house itself, but two new houses that they planned to build on the property. Both of which were quite a big bigger than the original house, and presumably quite a bit more expensive.
Now, the catch was, the developer apparently couldn't get approval to begin construction on the new houses until they had buyers lined up for both of them. And a house that big on our street, which is kind of out on the edge of town, is a tough sell. But eventually they must have found a couple of buyers desperate enough to pay what they were charging, because over the last few weeks, they got to work demolishing the existing house.
To me, of course, knocking down a perfectly good house in order to build two new ones seemed like an unfortunate waste. But at least there was one encouraging thing about the process: the demolition crew carefully worked around the two mature oak trees in the front yard instead of knocking them down. We assumed this meant that the developer was planning to keep the trees on the new property, since we couldn't see why they'd go to such trouble otherwise. And it made sense, since a big healthy tree like that would surely be a nice selling point for the house.
But apparently, in this market, the developer didn't need actually a feature like that to sell an as-yet-unbuilt house on an out-of-the-way street. Because when we got up on Tuesday morning, we saw that there was a crew of workers across the street preparing to take the trees down.ordinance dictating that you can't remove any tree above a certain size (which these two definitely were) without a permit. And I couldn't figure out why the borough would grant one for two beautiful, healthy trees like this, especially when it was clearly possible for the construction to proceed without them.
I tried calling up the borough's code enforcement officer to find out if these folks actually had a permit, but I couldn't reach anyone. Then I went out and asked one of the workers, and he assured me they did. The owner, who was there to supervise, even came over to show it to me when he saw me out there with my camera taking this picture. He showed me the plan of the property and explained that the two trees "had to" come down because they were planning to install two gas lamps in the exact spots where they stood. But he assured me that there would be new trees planted in the rear of the property to make up for it. (Of course, these new trees will be little dinky ones, rather than hundred-year-old oaks, and won't be visible from the street anyhow. But the ordinance says as long as you plant one new tree at least 2 inches in diameter for each one you cut down, no matter how large, that's good enough.)
So I'm forced to admit that the developer did indeed have permission from the borough to take down these trees. What I can't figure out is why. Why, why, WHY would the borough give this guy permission to remove two irreplaceable trees in order to install two gas lamps — a feature that clearly isn't necessary, isn't anywhere near as desirable as an old-growth tree, and oh yeah, burns fossil fuel and produces carbon emissions rather than removing them? Does the local government consider gas lamps more important than trees? Or does it care more about the needs of developers than those of local homeowners? Is it just so desperate for more property owners to pay taxes that it's willing to grant any concession at all to get more homes built?
But this, at least, is a problem we can potentially do something about. Brian already has plans to ask him if we can replace the fence (which we think is technically on his property) with some trellises. If he says yes, he plans to break up those crumbling concrete bars currently lining our driveway and replace them with some trellised planter boxes (sort of like these), in which we can plant some sort of climbing vines to grow up the trellis. He also has a notion to add another trellis to the end of the planter nearest the house, so it can partially conceal our trash cans from view. If this works, it will add a little shade and greenery back to our landscape and help block out that desolate view to the south.
We can even use the concrete chunks from the broken-up bars to provide drainage on the bottom of the boxes, so nothing will go to waste. Because unlike some people, we don't believe in wasting perfectly good resources.