NEW HAVEN — A tree grows in Wooster Square.
Actually, 19 of them are growing on Union Street, which includes a mini-grove at the corner of Fair Street that developers for a proposed apartment and townhouse complex say are stressed, diseased or won’t survive the construction process.
The developers, Adam America Real Estate and Epimoni, have approval to erect 299 apartments at 87 Union St., that will include four 3-bedroom townhouses around the corner on Fair Street.
They have tagged the 19 trees along Union Street, across from the popular dog park, to be removed, prompting a public hearing on the matter.
Michael Hunton, a landscape architect with Langan, the engineering company on the project, told the dozen residents at the hearing that he found a lot of die-back, damaged bark, moss growing on some and severe cutting of others by United Illuminating to protect the utility wires.
Hunton said the multiple symptoms led them to the decision to remove and replace them with trees that are 4 inches, 6 inches and 8 inches in diameter that will be better clustered with deep pits for maximum growth.
Hunton said a 6-inch tree will grow to 35 feet and will provide a good canopy for Union Street. The specifics of the tree sizes have already been approved as part of the site plan.
The hearing was called by Rebecca Bombero, director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees, as well as the tree warden for the city.
If the developer were simply removing them, they would have to pay the city an estimated $40,000, but the plan is to replace them as part of their landscaping.
“We try to replace our canopy as best we can,” Bombero said.
David Steinhardt, who also attended the hearing, said he hopes the project moves forward and he praised the way the developer was engaging the community. He said he would be watching to make sure the new trees measure up to what is promised.
Bombero is keeping the public hearing open for two more days and will make her decision known Friday.
Peter Antoniou, project manager, said as soon as they get approval they will take down the trees and put up a construction fence.
Asbestos will then be removed from the Torroco Plumbing and Supply company buildings currently on the site before they are demolished. This portion of the project is estimated to take about nine weeks.
Chris Ozyck, associate director of the Urban Resources Initiative, one of the interested residents, said there are two “champion oaks” in the right of way that have not been tagged for removal that he hopes can be preserved.
“They don’t have any deficits,” Ozyck said.
If the developer determines those trees have to go because of being too close to the apartments, they will have to come back for a separate hearing.
There was some discussion of moving the oaks, but that is an expensive proposition.
Anstress Farwell, head of the New Haven Urban Design League, was also concerned as to what happens long-term, if the irrigation system the developers are contemplating installing were to break down. Hunton said there is no final decision on whether it will be installed.
Ozyck said he also would like the company to reevaluate an oak and a sweet gum tree at the corner of Fair Street that are in close proximity to where the new trees are to be planted.
Ozyck said it is nice to have a mix of new and older trees that pay homage to the history of the current sites that were likely planted in the 1960s under Urban Renewal.
But overall, Ozyck said he was onboard with the proposal.
“I like the plan that they are doing. I like the concepts and the city has requested to replace them with a certain size, so I don’t have any issues with that aspect,” Ozyck said.