Hamilton Street Board Endorses Plan To Remove And Replace All Trees Along Business District

HSAB 6-6-16 meeting - 4

The Hamilton Street Advisory Board has endorsed a plan to remove and replace all trees along the 1.25-mile Business District corridor.

Hundreds of trees along Hamilton Street would be uprooted and replaced under a preliminary plan endorsed June 6 by the Hamilton Street Advisory Board.

Under the plan, trees currently lining the street would be removed and replaced with one of four suggested species. This would allow for “uniformity” of trees along the corridor, and would also reduce the risk of a mass die-off of trees should one species fall victim to a parasite or disease, said Vince Dominach, the HSAB’s executive director.

In all, there could be as many as 250 trees replanted along both sides of Hamilton Street, between Franklin Boulevard and the New Brunswick border.

The board accepted the recommendations of Dominick Pensabene, a consultant with CME Associates, who is preparing a tree plan for the business district, brought to it by Dominach.

For the study, the roughly 1.25-mile Hamilton Street Business District corridor was divided into four separate sections. Recommendations were made by Pensabene after consultation with the township’s Shade Tree Commission, Dominach said.

In addition to removing and replacing all current trees, Dominach said, Pensabene also recommended that decorative grates not be placed around the trees’ bases.

“In the more urban centers that use them, they have become maintenance hazards,” he said, noting that people will tend to throw garbage and cigarette butts behind the grates.

The trees will be no taller than 25 feet, Dominach said, and would be placed no closer than 50 feet apart. They could be placed further apart than 50 feet, depending on the circumstances, he said. For example, Dominach said, a tree would not be planted in front of a business where it would block its sign.

Some urban centers place the trees closer than 25 feet apart, but because the Hamilton Street business district is relatively small, that would not be appropriate, Dominach said.

“To put them every 25 feet would be a little bit of overkill,” he said.

Pensabene also recommended planting at least four different species, and no flowering trees, Dominach said.

“Trees tend to get diseases,” he said. “You don’t want to have 300 Dutch Elms, and they all get Dutch Elm disease.”

Flowering trees look pretty when their flowers have bloomed, Dominach said, but then create a mess when the petals fall to the ground.

Pensabene also “strongly recommended” that once the four tree species have been decided upon, that the Township Council incorporate into the Hamilton Street Business District development ordinance a restriction allowing only those trees in the business district, Dominach said.

The entire tree plan would also have to be incorporated in the development plan, he said.

The plan “really will redefine the aesthetics of Hamilton Street,” said Township Councilman James Vassanella, (D-Ward 5). “You will know you are in some kind of zone. It really will be beautiful.”

Pensabene will now take the plan back to the Shade Tree Commission for finalization, and then to the Planning Board for its review and approval. The plan must also be approved by the Township Council and reviewed by Somerset County planners.

The plan’s total cost also has to be determined.

Dominach said he hopes to have some movement on the plan in a few months,

“Our hope and goal is that we will have some trees in for the Fall planting season,” he said. Trees are usually planted in the Fall and Spring seasons.

Township manager Robert Vornlocker said that “not one of the trees on Hamilton Street conforms with the Public Service Electric and Gas recommendations on streetscape trees.”

Dominach said all the trees have to be replaced to ensure a uniform look.

“It would be different if we had 50 trees that were good, but we don’t,” he said.


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