MANCHESTER — A plan to remove seven trees from Manchester Town Common is on hold after significant push-back from several residents.

Selectmen tabled discussions on removing the trees after hearing complaints about the plan from several residents during their meeting Monday evening.

The town is preparing to re-landscape the entire common, something Town Administrator Greg Federspiel describes as "big and green, but not very healthy." In addition to a redesigned layout with less pavement, the project will rejuvenate the land to provide a better environment for trees, grass and other plant life.

In order to do this, Toby Wolf, the landscape architect hired for the project, recommended the removal of the seven trees in front of Town Hall (measurements refer to the tree's diameter): the 26-inch elm and the 6-inch, 8-inch and 10-inch magnolias located behind the benches; the 26-inch Norway maple next to the War Memorial; and the 18-inch crimson maple and 26-inch linden by the side driveway.

In their place, plans call for 11 or 12 new trees to be planted. Six other trees on the Common would remain. Work on the project is expected to begin this fall. 

In addition to renovation of the common, a group of private donors are replacing the War Memorial with a larger monument. The group also requested the nearby Norway maple to be removed.

After hearing complaints from several constituents about the plan to remove these trees, as well as several others in town unrelated to the two projects, Selectmen Chairman Eli Boling said he will talk with Wolf about possibly keeping some of the trees. The hearing is set to continue at the next selectmen's meeting on July 8.

Wolf was not present Monday, which irked some of the attendees. Boling said he will invite Wolf to the July 8 meeting so residents can ask him questions directly. Wolf has spoken at multiple public meetings about the renovation project. 

At Monday's meeting, Tom Henderson, the town's tree warden, said most of the trees that will be taken down for the re-landscaping project are diseased. Each of the three magnolias are infected with fungus. The insides of the maple by the War Memorial are rotted and it's expected to die within five years, he said. Likewise, the crimson maple is expected to only last 10 more years.

The two other trees, however, are healthy, with the linden being the strongest. Its removal was recommended because its roots are causing further unevenness on an uphill walkway. The plan is to remove the tree and install a small stairway on the path. 

Jeffrey Bodmer-Turner, the town's newest selectmen, said he wanted the linden to stay put if its healthy.

The 26-inch elm is stable, but with the proper pruning and attention it's poised to grow even stronger. In its current condition, however, it's unlikely to thrive during construction. The option to work around the tree is available, according to Federspiel.

Attendees voiced their frustration not only with the tree removals, but the new War Memorial as well. Boling had to pause the hearing twice to remind those in attendance the discussion at hand was limited to the tree removals. 

Plans to renovate Manchester Town Common began in 2017. That year, Town Meeting allocated $15,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to begin design work. At the most recent Town Meeting, $100,000 of Community Preservation Fund money was granted to begin construction. 

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.