Rhinbeck Village Tree Removal and Pruning – Update Re 2/9 Village Board .

Many thanks to all of you who emailed the Village Board and/or attended last night’s Village Board meeting regarding the Central Hudson tree removal/pruning issue.  Also many thanks to the Village Board for voting to remove only 21 of the trees in question (originally 127, later reduced to 110; the 21 trees to be removed will be marked with red dots, see street locations and counts at bottom of email).  The Board took no comment at the start of last night’s meeting, opting to instead delay further public comment until next Monday, 2/15, at 7 PM at Village Hall.  However, at the end of last night’s meeting (around 9:50 PM) the Board allowed about a 20-minute discussion/public comment re where we stand.  The following came out of that discussion and a further discussion I had with Board member Gary Bassett:

Pruning Issue Undecided: The pruning issue (how big a box around the wires, eg. 10 ft. x 10 ft. vs. less drastic pruning) is still undecided and is being further researched by the Village Board via legal research and discussions with Central Hudson.

Possible Pruning outcomes:

  1. Local Law: The Village Board may have the right to pass a local law to supersede Central Hudson commitments to the Public Service Commission (a citing of PSC regulations from the audience suggesting that the Village does not have this right was in my view  incorrect; see link to the regulation and discussion at bottom of this email). A local law could thus be passed to prevent extreme pruning which would make the remaining unremoved trees hardly worth retaining.  Legal research may reveal that this is possible; it is also possible that state law/utility regulations trump local municipal laws.
  1. Informal Pruning Standard or New Pruning Standard: If a. is not the case, the Village may sit down with Central Hudson and try to negotiate an informal but less extreme standard for pruning in the Village. This non-documented/gentleman’s agreement approach is acknowledged by the Board as hard to enforce/monitor when the crews go to work.

OR

The Village Board may try to get Central Hudson to adopt a new formal much less extreme pruning standard (vs. the current 10×10 ft box) as part of Central Hudson’s complete pruning standards regularly negotiated with the Public Service Commission. This standard would be more appropriate to village/rural esthetic values, especially in historically important regions.

  1. Delay Pruning Startup (currently targeted for the end of February): The Village Board may explore with Central Hudson the possibility of delaying the startup of Village pruning until after the current end-of-February target to allow more time for the Village Board to address/investigate options.

It also became clear in this discussion (a surprise to me and maybe many others) that all the other trees in the Village (in addition to the original 110 trees) located near major trunk lines on Village streets (sorry, no one last night had a clear picture of which streets carry trunk lines, my guess is most of them) are subject to whatever pruning standard evolves from further legal work and/or Central Hudson negotiations.    Thus the pruning standards are critical to the future appearance of the entire Village, and if draconian (10x10ft), will completely alter the appearance of the Village.  Rhinecliff citizens take note – you may be impacted by Central Hudson spring pruning as well.

The purpose of next Monday’s meeting per the Board is to take further public input about the removal of the 21 trees and the pruning issue, at which time they may or may not have further information regarding their legal investigations and negotiations with Central Hudson regarding pruning.  It is my understanding that this discussion will be dedicated solely to the tree issue.

To summarize, the pruning standard is now by far the key issue, and if the standard remains the 10×10 ft. box, the appearance of the Village on most/all streets will be drastically altered.

My thanks to all of you for your continued interest and support.  I am hopeful that you can attend the Village public discussion next Monday night (2/15, 7 PM, Village Hall), email  your thanks for the minimal tree removal plan and your support for minimal pruning to the Village Board, and forward this email to other concerned citizens.

Dod Crane

IMPORTANT NOTES:

1) Tree Removal (red-dot trees) Streets and Counts: Route 9 -6; West Chestnut – 2; East Market St. – 6; South St. – 1; Livingston St. – 1;  South Parsonage St. – 1; Beech St. – 1;  Lorraine Drive – 1;  Mulberry St. -1; Center St. – 1

2) PSC Standards Link

http://www3.dps.ny.gov/N/nycrr16.nsf/Parts/1A17F15DEE367AE485256FC7004E5C8C?OpenDocument

See especially section ‘§ 84.3 Transmission right-of-way maintenance programs and schedules’. This requires utilities (eg, Central Hudson) to submit line clearance standards to the PSC (vs. the PSC dictating standards to utilities).  My lay reading of this regulation does not seem to preclude submission of multiple clearance standards (eg, 10×10 ft. for rural sites, 3×3 ft. for villages/historic districts, etc.)  by a utility. This section also says nothing about whether local law can supersede utility maintenance plans submitted to the PSC.  That issue would need to be researched by an experienced municipal attorney understanding town/village and NYS utility law precedents.  Also note that this regulation appears to be over 30 years old (various clauses call for compliance  by March 31, 1981)  suggesting that the PSC regulations including right-of-way maintenance may need a general overhaul to stay current with 21st  Century concerns.