In 1974, Amherst town Meeting voted to accept the Scenic Road Act, MGL Ch. 40, Sec. 15C. All of Amherst's current scenic roads were designated at this time. See map below.
The Law & Permitting Process
Two Massachusetts laws - MGL Ch. 87 (Shade Tree Act) and MGL Ch. 40, Sec. 15C (Scenic Roads Act)-create overlapping responsibilities for the Tree Warden and the Planning Board in Amherst.
The Shade Tree Act gives the Tree Warden jurisdiction over the planting or removal of any public shade trees in a public way or, in some circumstances, on public property. In response to a proposal to remove public shade trees, the Tree Warden schedules a public hearing to solicit public input. In Amherst, this usually also involves the Public Shade Tree Committee, a subcommittee of the Conservation Commission whose principal purpose is to advise the Tree Warden. Following the public hearing, the Warden decides whether or not the trees can be removed and, if so, whether conditions will be attached to that removal (planting new trees, for instance).
The Scenic Roads Act, on the other hand, gives Planning Boards jurisdiction over the removal of any public shade trees or existing stone walls in a public way designated as a Scenic Road. The purpose of the Act is to protect the character of historic local roads by preventing the removal of key features-significant public shade trees and historic stone walls. To accomplish this, the Act requires that any proposal to remove public shade trees or stone walls must undergo a Planning Board public hearing to solicit public input, that the Board must then decide whether or not to allow the removal of the features, and, if so, to determine whether any conditions should be attached if removals are allowed.
Whenever there is a proposal to remove public shade trees on a Scenic Road, these 2 responsibilities overlap, and state law requires that a joint Planning Board/Tree Warden public hearing be held. The Planning Board and the Tree Warden hear public input and then try to reach agreement on how to respond to the request. The public hearing process is the same as with any other permit application, and in some cases, the Tree Warden will be present to also provide information, receive public testimony, and be involved in the deliberations prior to reaching a decision. If a mutually-agreeable decision can be reached, then the matter is concluded. When there is a irreconcilable dispute between the Planning Board and the Tree Warden, or if a written objection to a removal is filed by a citizen prior to or at the hearing, the matter of removal of the trees will go to the Select Board, which has jurisdiction over public ways, for final resolution.