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Greenwich Merchants, Residents Spar Over Trees

Old Greenwich residents and conservationists squabbled with merchants Wednesday over a proposal to cut down trees on Sound Beach Avenue.

Tree Warden Bruce Spaman has proposed removing eight trees in Old Greenwich's downtown shopping area, heeding a call from merchants who say the trees block their storefronts. Spaman called Wednesday's hearing after he received a petition with 300 signatures opposing the trees' removal.

“Just yesterday an elderly woman came into my store and she’s lived in Old Greenwich her whole life and she said to me, ‘Wow I didn’t know you were here,’ ” said David Wood, owner of The Funhouse, a toy store at 236 Soundbeach Ave. “I get that once a month because the tree in front of my store is blocking my store,”

B.J. Mocarski, owner of Village Barbers at 238 Soundbeach Ave., said the trees block the sign over her store. But she added the merchants want to replace the oaks with more suitable varieties.

Karen Sadik-Khan, an Old Greenwich resident and chair of the Board of Parks and Recreation, objected to the trees’ removal. “It’s not the trees that make or break the retail stores. It’s the economy, chain stores and apathy of shoppers,” she said, adding that parking was a bigger issue for the merchants than trees.

Other residents argued that uprooting healthy trees would be costly, unnecessary and damage the sidewalks. Overwhelmingly, the residents agreed that pruning and shaping the trees would ensure stores were not blocked.

State Rep. Lile Gibbons said the only way to open up a discussion on a bigger landscape plan for Old Greenwich was to begin with a public hearing on the trees’ removal. “What I’m hoping will come out of this is … someone will spearhead a committee to discuss … an overall landscape plan of what we want Old Greenwich to look like in five to 10 years,” she said. “We’re not going to take down the trees without an end plan.”

Jane Beattie, another resident, said, “This issue isn’t about trees. It’s about the merchants of Old Greenwich suffering dramatic cutbacks to their income because no is shopping in their stores. We need some individual to give up their time and talent to meet with the Old Greenwich Business Merchants Association to help brainstorm on what to do to bring more traffic into the community.”

Spaman said he will send out his decision in three days and that residents would have 10 days in which to appeal to Superior Court in Stamford.

Where do you stand on the Sound Beach Avenue tree issue? Comment below or send your opinions to ahelhoski@mainstreetconnect.us

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