Planning Board feels left out of tree removal case

Written by Administrator
 | Tuesday, 11 August 2009 20:50

The long-running dispute with developer Charles Tringale over land clearing fees has been settled –– but members of the Planning Board aren’t happy about it.

Tringale owed $92,000 for trees the town said he illegally cleared while constructing his 40B development called Duxbury Crossing, near the intersection of Enterprise and Careswell streets. The fines were initially assessed in 2004, when current town manager Richard MacDonald was the town’s building inspector. The fines were smaller at the time, but a daily fine assessed to the initial penalty pushed the number higher. Tringale appealed the decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals and then to the state Land Court, where the matter was finally settled for $20,000 and the replanting of 50 trees.

Planning Board members, however, think the town didn’t get enough out of the developer.

Chairwoman Amy MacNab called the figure “disappointing.”

“I think the town is as disappointed with this outcome as we are,” she said. “I don’t think this served any of us very well.”

Planning Board member Josh Cutler wondered why the town’s attorney couldn’t have demanded more.

“Who says we couldn’t have held out for $40,000 and a hundred trees?” Cutler said.

Part of the controversy over the fines stems from a town bylaw that says developers looking to clear land over a certain size must come before the Planning Board for a permit. Tringale’s team claimed that because his project was a 40B, he didn’t need to do this.

On Monday night, Planning Board members said their concern wasn’t that Tringale never came before them, but they were wary of setting a bad precedent.

“What does this mean moving forward, what does this say to other land developers in general?” said MacNab. “At the end of the day you can cut a deal for a couple thousand bucks and it will all go away?” She pointed out that the voters of Duxbury had passed the bylaw requiring the permit at Town Meeting by a 2/3 vote.

MacNab said she didn’t want to place all the blame on the Zoning Board, who she felt likely crafted the best deal they could. The concern of board members, however, was more focused on the process. Others felt the Planning Board should have been more involved in the settlement discussion, even as a courtesy.

Cutler also asked where the money from the settlement would be going. Town Planner Thomas Broadrick said free cash, and Cutler asked if the money shouldn’t be dedicated to something related to the offense.

MacNab also said the property is in the process of changing hands, but that the new owner is connected to Tringale.

Also at the meeting, the board discussed an ongoing issue with two buildings classified as dwellings existing on one lot. Technically, according to the town’s bylaws, a building is only classified as a “dwelling” if it has a stove. Broadrick said what’s been happening in town is that people will live in an existing house while building a “dream house” on the property, then when it’s time to occupy the main house, pull out the stove in the original building. After the inspectors, leave, however, the stove is often put back in.

MacNab said the issue could wreak havoc on the town’s long term plan.

“The implication is that it’s double density on every lot,” she said. “Clearly, this is not the intent of the comprehensive plan.”

She asked if this was just a matter of interpretation or would a change to the town’s bylaws be needed.

“It clearly is a problem,” said Broadrick. “We need to get together with the ZBA and the building commissioner and figure out how are we going to handle this.”