Salem Country Club and Mayer Tree Service removed 233 trees from protected areas during a redesign of the club’s golf course last winter. In line with a city ordinance, the commission charged the club and tree service $300 for each tree they took down within this area.
The Peabody, Mass. Conservation Commission voted 5-1 to issue a fine of $70,000 each to Salem Country Club and Mayer Tree Service for removing 233 trees from protected areas of the club’s property last winter, the Salem News reported. Commissioner Amanda Green was the sole vote against the motion. She told her fellow commissioners that the penalty should at least be six figures.
“[The club] followed through with everything as soon as the enforcement order went through, but prior to this, they asked for forgiveness instead of permission like, ‘Hey, you know, no problem,’ but it is a problem,” Green said at the meeting.
At the direction of the club’s manager, the trees were chopped down by Mayer Tree Service during a redesign of the club’s golf course last winter, the Salem News reported. While officials initially thought that only a handful of trees would be removed from the course during the redesign, nearly 700 were cut down.
The Conservation Commission has jurisdiction over 233 of these trees since they were located 100 feet from wetlands resource areas, the Salem News reported.
In line with a city ordinance, the commission charged the club and tree service $300 for each tree they took down within this area, the Salem News reported. Commissioner Arthur Athas agreed that a total of $140,000 seemed like a small penalty for taking down the 9-acre canopy, but voted in favor of the fine.
“When this first came before us, we were thinking this was really serious negligence on part of the Salem Country Club,” Athas said at the meeting. “As we’re going through the process, we seem to be working with them and they are willing to restore and go along with our restoration plan.”
The commission also voted for the club to pay about $22,000 in peer review costs, the Salem News reported. The club has already paid the peer reviewer about $15,000, said Lucia DelNegro, the city’s conservation agent.
A restoration plan to replace the 233 trees over the next decade must be turned in to the commission by Nov. 30, the Salem News reported.
The club recently removed wood chips left in the commission’s jurisdiction area of the property per the enforcement order, said attorney Barry Fogel, who is representing the club in the matter, the Salem News reported.
“We’ve already been taking action,” Fogel said at the meeting.