LONDONDERRY — Residents are speaking out about some missing trees, elder arbors they say may have been cut in violation of a massive development project agreement.
As the Woodmont Commons project moves forward, some say a row 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 agreement — were cut down.
Resident Jack Falvey spoke out at a Town Council meeting Dec. 16, 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. "They agreed to three rows on Gilcreast Road."
At a recent Planning Board meeting, town planner Colleen Mailloux also mentioned that many residents had called with concerns about the missing trees.
"People were noticing the clearing happening," she said. "They took out the third row but will replant that row in the spring."
Mailloux added she felt all was being done in compliance with the Woodmont master plan and agreement with the town.
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.
“To preserve a representation of our legacy is a reasonable request,” Falvey said.
As part of the Woodmont master plan agreement with the town, three rows of trees were to remain along Gilcreast.
Falvey said he was shocked to see that one row had been cut down.
"The third row was destroyed," Falvey told councilors, holding up a copy of the 1999 Londonderry Town Report that used a scenic photo of that stretch of trees as its cover.
"It's an iconic symbol of the land," he said.
But Town Councilor Jim Butler said sometimes things go wrong with development plans.
"It just happens," Butler said. "It's an unfortunate mishap. I think they (Woodmont) are doing a good job and kept their word."
Resident Roy Bouchard has lived in Londonderry 50 years.
He asked if those trees were diseased and beyond being saved.
"I don't think those trees are well taken care of," he said.
But Falvey said although the trees could have been upward of 70 years old, they were "serviceable and very healthy."
Town Council Chairman John Farrell said he would ask the town attorney to do research on the Woodmont agreement and bring back his point of view on the tree issue.
"It would be prudent of us to go back and see if we have all the facts right," Farrell said.