TREMONT — After meeting in executive session Monday with the town attorney, selectmen authorized town manager Millard Billings to enter into a consent agreement with the owner of a property where trees were cut in violation of the town’s zoning ordinance.
A notice of violation was sent to James Metzger of Darien, Conn. in December 2008, setting off more than a year of negotiations.
According to the notice of violation, 20,250 square feet of forest canopy was removed from a resource protection zone on the Metzger property, which is on Mitchell Marsh. The zoning ordinance allows only 250 square feet of canopy to be removed in that zone.
Mr. Metzger did not initially respond to the notice of violation. Further attempts to contact him were successful and, in July, the town attempted to enter into a consent agreement with Mr. Metzger. At the time, town officials reported Mr. Metzger declined to enter into the agreement because he believed no violation existed.
Frustrated with the response, selectmen decided to send the matter to town attorney James Collier. Mr. Collier presented a new consent agreement for the selectmen’s approval on Monday. Mr. Metzger has not signed the latest agreement, but he has indicated that he would do so, according to Mr. Billings.
The consent agreement requires Mr. Metzger to pay a fine of $36,500 and all legal fees and other costs incurred by the town in the matter. A portion of the fine – $26,500 – will be suspended pending Mr. Metzger’s compliance with reforestation plan detailed in the agreement.
The reforestation plan requires Mr. Metzger to replant the area of the cutting in accordance with a plan developed by a state-licensed forester selected by the town. The planting must be completed by the first frost of the 2010. planting season and the area inspected twice annually by a licensed forester for a period recommended by the forester not to exceed five years. Plantings are to be of adequate size and the proper species to screen the home on the property from the view of the water, provided the density of vegetation does not exceed that which existed before the cutting.
Mr. Metzger must pay the $10,000 unsuspended part of the fine by Feb. 15. In he fails to meet this obligation, the town will place a lien on the property.
At the suggestion of selectmen, Mr. Collier is to add a clause in the agreement specifying that the obligations would be passed on to any new owner should Mr. Metzger decide to sell the property.
The caretaker of the neighboring Paula Ingalls property discovered the tree cutting violation on the Metzger property and reported it to the town. That same caretaker also reported two trees had been cut on the Ingalls property without permission.
State forest ranger Rick Henion investigated the cutting and later summonsed James Hopkins, 54, of Tremont for unlawfully cutting the trees on the Ingalls property. According to Mr. Henion, Mr. Hopkins, who goes by the name Yossarian, was living in the home on the Metzger property when the cutting occurred.
In December, Mr. Hopkins was found guilty and fined $300 in Ellsworth District Court for cutting the trees on the Ingalls property.
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