BBAC Discusses Replacement Trees in the Back Bay

Trees are often a topic of discussion at Back Bay Architectural Commission hearings, and the one on Sept. 12 was no exception. Elizabeth Marcus from 82 Marlborough St. proposed to remove the dead magnolia tree that she planted 30 years ago. She does not want to plant another tree there, as “this one did not do well.” She sought permission to take down the dead tree and not be required to plant another one.

“This is not in my opinion a good location for a tree and from my personal experience trying to grow one there,” Marcus said. There are other large trees in the vicinity of her property, and she said that it might make more sense to plant a new one if one of those were to die.

Laurie Thomas from the Garden Club of the Back Bay said that are is a “suitable place” for an understory tree, which is one that can live underneath other trees without a lot of light. Such trees include Japanese maples and paper bark maples. Marcus said her arborist proposed a dogwood tree.

Marcus also said that the arborist told her he would be unable to get a stump grinder to fit in where the tree is, so it would have to decompose naturally. Commissioner Iphigenia Demetriades said that Marcus might want to get another opinion on that, as there are other machines that could fit in smaller places.

BBAC Chair Kathleen Connor asked Marcus why she wanted something else there besides a tree, to which Marcus replied that the house next door—the “companion house”—does not have a tree. She also said that “for all the years it was there, it looked pretty pathetic.”

“It would look equally nice to have a low flowering shrub in the center; even annuals,” Marcus said.

“There’s no plan here for what you’re going to do,”  Demetriades said. Connor agreed, saying that she would like to see a “vision and a plan,” and wants Marcus to come back with a plan of exactly what she wants to do instead of a tree.

Sue Prindle from the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay said she was in favor of the Garden Club’s position because “we’ve worked hard to take care of the tree canopy,” and thinks it would be unfortunate to not have a tree there.

The neighbor at 86 Marlborough St. said that it does not really matter whether there is a tree or a garden in the spot.

The Commission voted to approve taking the tree down and approve delaying the removal of the stump so it has time to disintegrate. Marcus is to return in six months with two plans—one with a tree and one with a garden.

At 438 Marlborough St., applicant Chris Pellegrini said the Japanese maple on the property is “definitely dead” and he wants to cut it down, grind the stump, and put a different tree there. He said they had spoken with the Garden Club, who recommended a Rutgers Dogwood tree.

“We think that’s a very appropriate tree for that garden,” said Laurie Thomas from the Garden Club. The Commission approved this proposal as presented.

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