Library Sidewalk To Get Makeover; Trees Could Go, Despite Opposition

by William F. Galvin

HARWICH – Trees were once again a matter of discussion on the second night of the annual town meeting.

Voters turned down a tree preservation bylaw Monday, and on Tuesday night cutting down two trees which are buckling the sidewalk in front of Brooks Free Library became an issue.

The article was seeking to repurpose $25,000 left over from a 2013 appropriation for library carpet and flooring to supplement $90,000 in a 2019 article for repairs to the brick sidewalk in front of the library, including the replacement of two trees along Main Street with new ones whose roots won’t don’t damage the sidewalks.

There were sentiments among some voters that the existing trees, which have shallow roots that cause upheavals in the sidewalk, should not be removed. Cynthia Sutphin said she was concerned the trees are scheduled to be ripped out of the ground. Trees breathe, provide oxygen and clean the air and they should be honored, she said.

An architectural study conducted in 2015 recommended the removal of the surface root trees and replacing them with deep-root trees so as not to disrupt the sidewalk, Brooks Free Library trustee Jo-Anne Brown said. Trustee Linda Cebula said if the trees can be saved, the trustees would try to do so.

Library director Ginny Hewitt said the project was a department of public works operation, but she expressed concern that the trees, now 10 feet from the building, would continue to grow and cause problems. The trees could live for 200 years, she said.

Nearby resident Art Bodin said he was against the removal of the trees, adding that the brick sidewalk was just a little wavy. He suggested a sidewalk litmus test, comparing the sidewalk in front of the library to the rest of the sidewalks in Harwich Center; in that case, the library sidewalks would be considered in great shape, he said.

Patrick Otton put forward an amendment seeking to delete language relating to the replacement of the two trees, but it failed. Voters then approved the repurposing of the $25,000 to remove and replace the trees.

Voters approved three articles allowing the transfer of industrial zone lots at 172, 178 and 246 Queen Anne Rd. from town boards that now control them to the select board for general municipal purposes. The select board proposes to sell the lots and use the funds for the potential purchase of other parcels more suitable for housing, conservation or recreation purposes.

Leo Cakounes took issue with the idea. He said 10 years ago the selectmen were considering selling the three industrial parcels and using the money to buy trucks. He urged the board to retain the parcels, which he said are the last industrial parcels on Queen Anne Road. The town may need those lots in the future, he said.

Ten years ago, Cakounes said, the lots were worth about $200,000 each, adding the town just sold the 276 Queen Anne Rd. lot for $1,500,001.

MacAskell said the real estate and open space committee vetted the lots, and the chair of that committee, Elaine Shovlin, said the parcels are not suitable for housing or conservation use and they would serve no real use for the town. They are being used as a dumping ground now, Shovlin said.

“Any lot that is vacant is valuable to the nature that resides there,” said Otton. MacAskill said there are businesses that want to come into town that could use the properties, which could add jobs and additional taxes.

Voters approved the three articles extending the custody of those lots to the select board for general municipal purposes.

Voters also instructed the town to seek special legislation to amend the Harwich Affordable Housing Trust bylaw to include attainable housing up to 200 percent of the area median income.

Cakounes wanted to know why the request was being brought by petition and not through the affordable housing trust. Petitioner Ed McManus said he proposed the measure because housing costs on the Cape do not allow folks within that income level to buy or find rental housing.

Housing Committee and Housing Authority Chair Elizabeth Harder said she supported the proposal because the town and the affordable housing trust needs every tool possible to help with housing.

Former select board member Mary Anderson said the approval does not force the affordable housing trust to pursue attainable housing, rather it allows the trust to pursue it if they choose to do so.

Voters approved $100,000 to fund a sewer assistance grant that will provide financial assistance for income eligible residents to connect their properties to the town sewer. The select board will set up the ground rules. Select Board Chair Julie Kavanagh said it will run through the assessing department in a similar fashion to tax abatements.

Voters concluded the annual meeting in about one and a half hours on Tuesday night.

Ford Gets Standing Ovation

HARWICH – Moderator Michael Ford was back at the podium to conclude the annual town meeting Tuesday night after he collapsed at the conclusion of Monday night’s town meeting session.

Ford was taken by ambulance to Cape Cod Hospital and was treated for extreme dehydration.

Providing you can’t keep a good moderator down, Ford was back Tuesday evening displaying his Parliamentary expertise with good humor. Town Meeting attendees gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion of the legislative session.