I was reading a few reports about the new Wellesley tree protection bylaw (rules here), which involves charging fees to developers and property owners who clear cut trees in setback areas as of July 1. The fees will fund the planting of new trees by the town when trees with a diameter of 10 inches or more in protected areas are felled.
The reports include plenty of references to “diameter at breast height” (DBH), a standard for measuring how big a tree is — but lingo that was new and confusing to me. I didn’t really get a sense of how much people might actually get whacked for if they go around whacking trees.
I got some clarification from Michael Zehner, assistant planning director on Wellesley’s Planning Board. Fees range from $150-$400 per inch of tree diameter at breast height, but translated, we’re talking potentially tens of thousands of dollars for those who choose to clear cut when building or renovating. As he notes, it’s tricky to give examples from the past since measurements weren’t taken, but he did share one example of a property going through the town’s Large House Review that involved cutting down 4 big trees (an estimated 94 inches of DBH) that would have resulted in a fee of more than $24K. Such a fee might force developers/property owners to reconsider cutting down the trees, since the trees weren’t in the way of the project and could have been left standing. Those cutting down protected trees will also have an option to replant trees of a specified size to avoid getting hit with fees.