LONDONDERRY — After residents began speaking out in past months about apple trees going missing, town officials say no rules or laws were broken as development of the massive Woodmont Commons project moves forward.
At a meeting Jan. 20, Town Council Chairman John Farrell read a summary portion of a letter from town attorney Michael Ramsdell concerning the removal of apple trees along Gilcreast Road — a row that was among a total of three rows to remain intact as part of a Woodmont /town development agreement.
In the summary read by Farrell, Ramsdell noted that "no laws, rules, regulations or ordinances were violated" during the process that resulted in the decision to remove trees.
Ramsdell went on to say that Woodmont developers also followed all proper rules and processes as part of the development plan.
And during the Planning Board approval process, decisions could have been challenged within 30 days of the decision, Ramsdell stated in his letter. No challenge was raised during that time frame.
Farrell added that there was no legal malice in this apple tree decision.
Resident Jack Falvey remains very vocal about the tree situation, something he has voiced much passion about since Woodmont started to take shape several years ago.
He spoke out at a Town Council meeting last month, saying he saw the missing row of trees and brought it to the town's attention.
"They agreed to a buffer zone in parts of the development," Falvey said at the December meeting. "They agreed to three rows on Gilcreast Road."
Efforts to save trees amidst the beginnings of the Woodmont Commons plan date back many years. And many of those efforts had Falvey involved.
In 2013, Falvey and others supported saving trees after the old orchard land was sold to Woodmont developers to pave the way for the 600-acre multi-use, multi-phase development plan that will combine streetscapes, retail, housing and green space.
Rallies were held to bring awareness to the importance of the trees that remained along Gilcreast Road near where Woodmont is taking shape.
Back then, Falvey had also hoped developers might use 19 acres of the 600-acre Woodmont plan for a public park he wanted to call "Apple Tree Park."
He said then that having Apple Tree Park as part of Woodmont would secure some of the town’s most valuable land, while keeping the integrity and rural character intact.
As part of the Woodmont master plan agreement with the town, three rows of trees were to remain along Gilcreast.
A new row of crabapple trees could replace the missing third row, officials say.
Town Manager Kevin Smith said everything done at Woodmont must follow all rules and regulations set down within the development agreement with the town. That includes going through the planning approval process when each block of development is planned and developed.
Farrell said the Council doesn't have the authority to tell the Planning Board what to do. And legal counsel said things were done right, he added.
"According to the opinion we have, they followed all rules, regulations and the laws," Farrell said.