The articles from last spring's Town Meetings have gone to the attorney general for approval more than two months after the deadline described under state law, and the town has requested an expedited review.
Town Clerk Stephanie Lucarelli said in a phone conversation Thursday, Aug. 15, that the articles would be submitted the next day. Town Counsel has confirmed that they were.
The clerk said that the press of work, which included a special election in June, and the lack of help led to the delay.
Under state law, a clerk has 30 days to submit Town Meeting articles to the state after a Town Meeting ends. Arlington's annual meeting ended Wednesday, May 15, and considered 79 articles. Its Special Town Meeting, held earlier, considered six articles.
According to form the town counsel's office, 16 total bylaws were submitted to the state -- eight general ones (articles 26, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35) and eight for zoning (14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 24).
Town Counsel Doug Heim said state law includes no penalty for missing a deadline to submit articles.
The delay came to light when a Town Meeting member inquired about the state of the tree-protection bylaw (Article 32), which was adopted, 203-1. The member, Jo Anne Preston, was concerned about protecting trees this fall. She said she had not received a clear response from the clerk about the delay. That led to inquire with the state, which told her that the town's articles had not been filed.
In a typical year, Town Meeting articles are sent to the state in June, and the attorney general's office approves them, or says what must happen next, by sometime in September. Under state law, that office has 90 days to decide.
With a delay of more than two months, what may happen next?
In response to a YourArlington inquiry, Heim wrote Monday, Aug. 19: "I've respectfully requested the AG's Office consider whether any means of an expedited review can be achieved, highlighting particular concern for the Tree Protection Bylaw amendments.
"They have the right to take 90 days to review them, which is the chief and understandable concern. At this point, it looks promising that they will graciously do what they can to prioritize a review and approval of Town Bylaw amendments."
In a follow-up, Heim wrote Aug. 21 that the Municipal Law Unit has agreed to do what it can to expedite review. That includes reviewing town bylaws before the zoning bylaws.
"For some complicated reasons, zoning bylaws are deemed to be in effect from the date of their original notice if they are passed by Town Meeting, so review of zoning bylaws, while important because they could theoretically be invalidated, we can under circumstances such as these prioritize Town Bylaw review and approval.
The law unit cannot provide a more specific time frame, "but they've been very receptive and responsive to concerns about getting town bylaws approved."
Further, he noted, there is no established mechanism to let town officials know that articles are filed late. The state law unit encourages clerks to submit bylaws for approval online, so if the town counsel's office is copied on submissions, "then we know when they're made," he wrote.
2019 Town Meeting, session 8, other links
This news summary was published Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019.
While Arlington residents have been enjoying the dog days of summer, a bright metallic green beetle, smaller than a dime, has been moving East to prey on the town’s ash trees.
Originating in Central Asia, this invasive insect, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), was accidentally transported to southeast Michigan in 2002, and has already destroyed many thousands of ash trees in the Midwest. Moving quickly, it has infested the Berkshires and has been recently found in traps in Lexington, Somerville and Cambridge.
Because the insect, once established in an ash tree will kill it in short order, Arlington Tree Warden Tim Lecuivre, working with Director of Public Works Michael Rademacher, has developed a treatment plan, which will be employed in town next spring.
As for ash trees on private property, Lecuivre strongly recommends that owners consult an arborist immediately to assess treatment possibilities. He notes that tree removal will cost much more than the treatment for EAB does.
The tree warden estimates removing a medium-size ash would cost more than $1,000, while an ash tree of the same size treated privately could cost from $150 to $200. The evaluation and cost estimate by a tree service is free.
Why is the beetle so lethal?
Outside its natural range, where its spread is limited by resistant trees and predators, the EAB can spread unimpeded. Already, it has killed tens of millions of ash trees throughout North America. Once it enters an area, it will destroy all ash trees within 10 years. And it spreads rapidly, advancing up to 50 miles in a year, according to the state DCR Forest Health Program.
[["Although the beetle travels quickly thorough the air, a main source of transmission is the transportation of wood products by humans, most specifically firewood."]] SAYS WHO?
Moreover, ash trees in more densely populated areas, like all trees, have less resistance because of compacted soil, lack of watering, heat islands, pollution and road salt.
Tree fatalities are caused by larvae feeding on the inner bark, interrupting the flow of nutrients and water. Once the tree is girdled -- no longer able to transport sufficient water and nutrients to the tree -- it cannot be saved.
In addition, the EAB reproduces at a rapid rate. The females can lay eggs in the bark crevices in the spring, which hatch two weeks later. One female can lay from 40 to 70 eggs in her six-week life cycle.
With no natural predators or any ash-tree resilience, the tree dies from the top down, and the destruction inside the tree is usually undetected until the tree is mostly destroyed. One method of detection, which is difficult but possible, is to look for very small D-shaped exit holes made by the new adults.
Arlington’s treatment plan: botanical injectable insecticide
Arlington has chosen to use a systemic insecticide formulated with azadirachtin, an extract of neem tree seeds. Proven to be effective, it has the added advantage of not polluting ground water or hurting pollinators. It is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency as a bioinsecticide. Its trade name is TreeAZin, and it was developed by Bioforest in collaboration with the Canadian Forest Service. Learn more about it here >>
There are four approaches to apply insecticides to Ash trees: soil application, trunk injections, trunk sprays and protective cover sprays. Arlington chose to use trunk injections.
Although more expensive, this method allows the insecticide to more effectively move up the tree and kill the EAB. Moreover, it safeguards any pollinators since it remains within the tree. The lower trunk is injected through multiple small holes, and the the insecticide moves up through the tree. The best time for application is in the morning from early spring to Labor Day.
Which ash trees to treat? The town plans to treat all of the ash trees that are evaluated as in good or fair condition. That means 882 Ash trees out of the 960 public ash trees will be treated. The remaining trees are deemed to be too young or in too poor condition to benefit from treatment, Lecuivre said.
[["Without treatment, it is most likely that Arlington will lose all the ash trees on private land. Although the exact number of privately owned ash Trees is not known, it could be equal to the number are owned by the town. That would have devastating impact on Arlington's already diminishing tree canopy."]] SAYS WHO?
Next spring's treatment of the public ash trees here is to begin with Pleasant Street, moving south and east. This area is closer to the discovery of the EAB in Cambridge and Somerville. It also has a significantly higher number of public ash trees.
In the spring of 2021, the rest of Arlington's public ash trees are to be inoculated. The insecticide is effective for at least two years, so alternating years is part of the plan. It is the same plan adopted by Somerville and Cambridge.
To track the presence of the EAB in Arlington, the tree warden will install two prism traps with attractants. These traps will allow him to adjust the treatment plan according how many EABs are found and where they are found in Arlington.
Importance of homeowners treating ash trees
The economic impact alone should convince homeowners to treat ash trees on their properties. If an ash tree on a property is infected with EAB, it will have to be taken down since the tree will die within a year or two.
Studies shows that it costs far less money to hire an arborist to inject the tree with an insecticide than to remove the tree.
Most tree companies have a certified arborist on staff who would be glad to come and evaluate your tree for treatment. The town will need the fall and winter to organize thee townwide inoculation program that to begin next spring. Private owners of ash trees, however, could have their trees treated now before the deadline of Labor Day for effective treatment.
Future of ash tree treatments
When the Emerald Ash Borer first appeared, conservationists had no treatments available. In the last five years, scientists have develop some effective inoculations, such as the botanical TreeAZin.
Now, they are experimenting with a nonstinging parasitic wasp that targets the Emerald Ash Borer and has shown strong results. This summer, these wasps have been introduced into northern Maine forests and will be studied for effectiveness, spread, and overwintering. The success of these wasps may lead to the elimination of inoculating individual trees in the future.
Why not just cut all the ash trees down? Tim Lecuivre told YourArlington that the ash is the perfect tree for Arlington, as it is drought-tolerant, manage poor urban air quality, deal well with street salt and have a beautiful large leaf canopy, which gives shade to both homes and streets.
From the conversation with Lecuivre, it was clear that the town's more than 900 public ash trees have served Arlington well throughout the years, removing atmospheric carbon and cooling neighborhoods. Treating them for the EAB will allow them to continue to serve Arlington.
For more information, residents should visit the Tree Committee table at Town Day on Saturday, Sept. 14. They will have a map of all the public Ash trees in Arlington and information on the EAB treatment plan.
This viewpoint was published Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019.