[HISTORY: Adopted by the Annual Town Meeting of the Town of Belchertown 5-12-2003 by Art. 28. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Statutory provisions of the Scenic Road Act, MGL c. 40, § 15C: "Upon recommendation or request of the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, or Historical Commission of any city or town, such city or town may designate any road in said city or town other than a numbered route or state highway, as a scenic road.
After a road has been designated as a scenic road, any repair, maintenance, reconstruction, or paving work done with respect thereto shall not involve or include the cutting or removal of trees, or the tearing down or destruction of stone walls, or portions thereof, except with prior written consent of the Planning Board ... after a public hearing duly advertised twice in a newspaper of general circulation in the areas, as to time, date, place, and purpose, the last publication to occur at least seven days prior to such hearings; provided, however, that when a public hearing must be held under the provisions of this section and under section three of Chapter 87 (Public Shade Tree Act) prior to cutting or removal of a tree, such hearings shall be consolidated into a single public hearing before the Tree Warden and the Planning Board ... and notice of such consolidated public hearing shall be given by the Tree Warden or his deputy as provided in said section three of Chapter 87.
Designation of a road as scenic road shall not affect the eligibility of a city or town to receive construction or reconstruction aid for such road pursuant to the provisions of Chapter ninety."
In accordance with the Belchertown Community Plan, the purpose of this chapter is to maintain Belchertown's rural New England look and feel:
To maintain and enhance the rural character of historic and scenic town roads through the preservation of mature trees and stone walls;
To "avoid suburban style road sides" by maintaining the natural beauty that exists along scenic roads and encouraging new development that is compatible with existing road side features;
To implement more fully the provisions of the Scenic Road Act, with acknowledgement that roads serve transportation function for pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians as well as motorized vehicles.
To provide a public process for achieving balance between the preservation of rural character and scenic beauty, public safety, and efficient road maintenance.
For terms not qualified in MGL c. 40, § 15C, of the Massachusetts General Laws the following meanings shall apply for the purposes of this chapter:
- CUTTING OR REMOVAL OF TREES
- The removal of one or more trees, trimming of major branches or cutting of roots sufficient in the Tree Warden's written opinion to cause eventual destruction of a tree. It does not include clearing nuisance growth, routine or emergency tree maintenance which removes only permanently diseased or damaged limbs, trunks or roots and dead whole trees or thinning overcrowded trees as determined by the Tree Warden.
- REPAIR, MAINTENANCE, RECONSTRUCTION, OR PAVING WORK
- Any work done within the right-of-way by any person or agency, public or private. Construction of new driveways or alteration of existing ones is included, in so far as it takes place within the right-of-way. Construction or alteration of water, sewer, electric, telephone, cable TV, or other utilities within the right-of-way is also included.
- A vehicular traveled way plus its necessary appurtenances within the right-of-way, including bridge structures, drainage systems, retaining walls, traffic control devices, and sidewalks, but not intersecting streets or driveways. The right-of-way includes the area on and within the boundaries of the public way and the air space above. If the boundaries are not officially known, any affected tree or stone wall shall be presumed to be within the public right-of-way until shown to be otherwise.
- TEARING DOWN OR DESTRUCTION OF STONE WALLS
- The destruction of more than 10 linear feet of stone wall involving more than one cubic foot of wall material per linear foot above existing grade. Temporary removal and replacement of a stone wall, within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed six months, at the same location with the same materials is permitted without Planning Board approval if the Town Highway Department is notified before the work begins. Repair of a stone wall not involving removal and/or destruction is not covered by this chapter.
- Includes a tree whose trunk has a diameter of four inches or more as measured four feet above the ground. Nothing in this definition shall be construed to permit a person, other than the Tree Warden or his deputy, to trim, cut down or remove a public shade tree more than one and one-half inch in diameter one foot from the ground.
In determining which roads or portions of roads should be recommended to Town Meeting for designation as scenic roads, the following criteria shall be considered:
Overall scenic beauty and rural character.
Contribution of trees and/or stone walls to scenic beauty and rural character
Age and historic significance of roads, trees, and stone walls
Man-made features such as historic buildings, monuments, burial grounds, farm buildings and fencing.
Road features such as historic layout, surface, carriage width, use restrictions, bridges.
The Planning Board, the Board of Selectmen, the Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission, or a petition of 10 citizens of the Town may propose "scenic road" designation for any Belchertown road or specific portion of a road other than a numbered route or state highway as a scenic road. The Planning Board shall hold a public hearing notifying the Selectmen, the Tree Warden, the Department of Public Works, the Conservation Commission, and the Historical Commission and the public by advertising twice in a newspaper of general circulation, the first advertisement to appear at least 14 days prior to the public hearing. The Planning Board shall make a recommendation to Town Meeting on the merits of designation of the proposed road as a scenic way. A majority vote of Town Meeting is required for designation. Such designation shall be effective as of the date of Town Meeting action.
Following designation by Town Meeting, the Planning Board shall:
Curb cuts. Driveway standards shall be consistent with the regulations for curb cuts contained in the Belchertown Bylaw Chapter 114, Streets and Sidewalks.
Only one driveway cut per lot onto any scenic road shall be allowed.
Stone wall removal limitation.
Where stone walls exist the maximum amount of stone wall to be removed shall be the width of the driveway or new road at the location of the stone wall plus three feet on each side.
Unless otherwise waived, removed stone shall be used to repair other sections of the wall along the road.
No wall shall be cut without construction of an appropriate terminus. Appropriate end points shall consist of stone piers, granite posts, stone walls with tapered ends turning back onto the lot along the drive, or wooden posts with or without a gate.
Tree removal limitation. No tree with a trunk exceeding eight inches in diameter four and one half feet above ground level shall be cut for a driveway or new road unless the curb cut cannot be safely located otherwise. Unless otherwise waived, whenever trees are removed, the applicant will plant equivalent native species elsewhere along the road right-of-way.
Filing. Any person or organization, seeking consent of the Planning Board under MGL c. 40, § 15C (the Scenic Road Act) regarding the cutting or removal of trees or tearing down of stone walls or portions thereof, in connection with the repair, maintenance, reconstruction or paving work, including new driveways (as defined in § 97-3) on scenic roads, shall submit a request in writing to the Planning Board with the following:
A plan showing the location and the nature of the proposed action and a description of the proposed changes to trees and stone walls.
A statement of the purpose(s) for the change.
A list of owners of property located within 500 feet of the proposed action.
Any further explanatory information including proposed compensatory actions that may be useful to the Planning Board prior to the public hearing.
A filing fee adequate to cover advertising the public hearing. Town agencies shall be exempt from the fee.
Relationship to Public Shade Tree Act (MGL c. 87). Notice shall be given and Planning Board hearings shall be held in conjunction with those held by the Tree Warden acting under MGL c. 87, the Public Shade Tree Act. Consent to an action by the Planning Board shall not be construed as inferring consent by the Tree Warden or the reverse. A Planning Board Decision shall contain a condition that no work shall take place until all applicable provisions of MGL c. 87 have been met.
Notice. The Planning Board shall, as required by statute, give notice of its public hearing by advertising twice in a newspaper of general circulation in the area, the last publication at least seven days prior to the public hearing. This notice shall contain a statement as to the time, date, place, and purpose of the hearing with a description of the action proposed by the applicant. Copies of this notice shall be sent to the applicant, the Selectmen, the Tree Warden, the DPW Superintendent, the Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission and the owner of the property located within 500 feet of the proposed action. In the event the Planning Board holds a joint hearing with the Tree Warden acting under MGL Ch. 87, the advertisement shall be made by the Tree Warden.
Timing of the hearing. The Planning Board shall hold a public hearing as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days of receipt of a properly filed request, and shall make a decision within 45 days of the receipt, unless a longer time is agreed to by the applicant.
The Planning Board shall file its decision with the Town Clerk no later than 15 days from the hearing unless a longer time is agreed to by the applicant. Copies of the decision shall be sent to the applicant, the Tree Warden, the DPW Superintendent, the Conservation Commission, the Selectmen, the Historical Commission and the Zoning Enforcement Officer.
In rendering its decision, the Planning Board shall review the application as to its compliance with MGL c. 84 § 5, the regulations in this chapter, the considerations listed in the following § 97-9.
The Planning Board may require sufficient bond to be posted to cover the costs of required work within the road right-of-way and to protect existing vegetation and stone walls. Such bonding will be specified in the Board's decision.
The approval by the Planning Board under these regulations of a proposed action shall be valid for two years, after which it shall be void.
In rendering a decision, the Planning Board shall consider the following:
Community Plan goals, including: preservation of rural character, avoiding suburban roadside and maintaining the scenic and aesthetic quality of the road.
Preservation of historic values.
Protection of natural resources and wildlife habitat.
Recreation uses of the road.
Traffic volume, congestion and posted speed limits.
Proposed compensatory actions such as replacement of trees or walls.
Financial hardship related to design revision to avoid or reduce damage to trees or stone walls.
Functional importance and urgency of repair, maintenance, reconstruction, or paving.
Additional evidence contributed by abutters, Town agencies and other interested parties.
Failure to file. Failure to file with the Planning Board for permission to cut or remove trees or for the destruction of 10 or more feet of stone wall within the right-of-way of a scenic road will require an immediate filing as detailed above and shall be subject to restoration of the features. Unless waived, this restoration shall consist of replacing the stone wall on a square-foot-per-square-foot basis and replacing the trees cut on a diameter-inch-per-diameter-inch basis at locations specified by the Planning Board and Tree Warden.
Compliance. Failure to comply with the duly issued decision of the Planning Board shall be subject to restoration as stated above, and other remedial measures the Planning Board deems necessary, including enforcement of the bonding.
Authority. The Planning Board and the Tree Warden (where appropriate) shall have the authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter.
Violations. The Tree Warden may issue a citation for violation of these regulations. A failure to respond to properly issued citations, or failure to comply with a Planning Board decision or failure to undertake required restoration shall be considered a major violation, subject to a fine of not more than $300. Each day that such violation continues shall constitute a separate offense.
The procedures of this chapter shall not apply when the Tree Warden acts in an emergency in accordance with MGL c. 87 to remove fallen trees or limbs which cause an obstruction to public travel or a dangerous situation with respect to utility lines. In such cases, the Planning Board must be notified within 5 business days of any action, which had the threat not existed, would be a violation of this chapter.