Published September 26. 2013 4:00AM
Stonington - A large group of residents from Moss Street and the surrounding Pawcatuck neighborhood told Connecticut Light & Power officials Wednesday night that they do not want the utility to cut down or significantly trim trees on Moss and Courtland streets.
The proposed cutting is part of the utility's statewide effort to improve the reliability of its system and prevent residents from losing power during storms. One way it is doing that is by doubling its tree-trimming budget.
"There's a definite benefit for this for CL&P but no benefit for residents of Moss Street," said Mark Higgins, who lives on the street. "This is a radical, thoughtless proposal."
Residents said the cutting would damage the character of the historic shaded street and decrease their property values.
After listening to residents for more than an hour, the Board of Selectmen asked CL&P to come back in two weeks with a revised plan based on what it heard from residents. CL&P would like to do the work this year but needs approval from town Tree Warden Paul Rohacik.
Residents also suggested CL&P bury the power lines, present a long-term tree plan, offer details about how each of the trees would be affected and do less intense but more frequent trimming. It now plans trimming every four years.
CL&P vegetation manager Dave Goodson said the two sides need to work together to come up with a solution that is best for CL&P and the residents of Stonington.
He added a revised state law now only requires CL&P to notify affected property owners of the work instead of getting their permission, even if the trees are on private property.
He added there is no CL&P policy at this time to hold residents or the town liable if the trimming is not done.
CL&P's plan calls for cutting all branches within 8 feet on either side of the power lines from 10 feet below the lines to 15 feet above.
Because many of the 52 trees on Moss Street are right underneath the wires, Goodson said if the trees are trimmed and not taken down, they will not look like trees because of the extensive pruning that would be needed.
First Selectman Ed Haberek, who lives on Moss Street, said he was concerned about the "universal butchering" of the trees that would result in a loss of charm and character.
He pointed out that in recent storms, it was not downed trees on Moss Street that knocked out power to residents there but problems in other parts of the system. He added trees on the street have survived storms for 100 years, including the Hurricane of 1938.
He said that while some diseased trees need to be taken down, removing healthy ones would be a disservice to the town. Rohacik said the trees are not compatible with the wires and need to be pruned. He suggested a compromise of taking down every other tree and pruning others.