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Lamont takes responsibility for tree cutting near his house

Gov. Ned Lamont is quizzed about tree cutting behind his home in Greenwich.
Gov. Ned Lamont is quizzed about tree cutting behind his home in Greenwich.

Gov. Ned Lamont spoke publicly for the first time Monday about a Hearst Connecticut report last week that a contractor hired by him and a homeowners association illegally cleared trees in a protected wetland behind the governor’s home in Greenwich.

Standing by a flowering tree outside a hospital in Bridgeport, where he held a press conference on a maternal and newborn health program, the governor accepted responsibility for the tree cutting — but bristled at the reported motive.

Hearst reported that the clearing of more than 180 trees over several acres “had the effect of opening up a scenic view from Lamont’s house and his neighbors, the Viks, down the hillside to Indian Spring Pond below.”

The governor insisted that the contractor was hired to clear storm-damaged trees on his and association property, not to improve his view.

“You’ve said about six straight times, ‘They clear cut 180 trees for a clear view of the lake.’ Come look at the backyard,” Lamont said. “You’ll see nothing but trees — no lake.”

“So it wasn’t anything to do with the view?” Lamont was asked.

“I can repeat myself,” Lamont said sharply. “You don’t see any lake. You see nothing but trees from the backyard. And Hearst should have followed up on that. I really think they should have.”

The governor did not dispute, however, central elements of the story: The contractor did not have a permit, some of the trees cleared were on a neighbor’s property, and the work violated wetland rules.

The Hearst story was based in part on minutes of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourse commission in which the manager of 90 acres of forested property near the Lamonts described the damage as widespread.

It was posted shortly after Lamont helped plant 35 cherry blossom trees in East Hartford for Earth Day.

The property manager said it appeared views were opened from the Lamont house and a neighbor’s “in a coordinated effort to open views down to the lake.”

“It was coordinated destruction of the entire ecosystem in that area. The perpetrators should restore the entire area as closely as possible to the way it was. The applicants should spare no expense to facilitate full restoration,” the manager said, according to the minutes. “They should do whatever is asked of them and not try to negotiate anything less than a full restoration.”

The tree cutting occurred in November. A call for restoration came before the wetlands panel in March.

The undeveloped, forested parcel is owned by INCT, a limited liability corporation based in Manhattan. INCT is a member of the Ashton Association, the homeowners’ group, but was not consulted before the cutting.

So, who is responsible?

“I think at the end of the day, I’m responsible, and the association is,” Lamont said. “They hired a contractor to do the work. I think the contractor frankly went beyond the scope a little bit.”

More than a little bit, according to the neighbor’s property manager and his lawyer.

The wetlands panel met briefly Monday without taking action on an order for restoration. Lamont said he already has told his neighbor he would “make good” on repairing the damage.

Lamont said he did not know why his contractor failed to get a permit.

“I’m afraid we rely upon the landscaper for that. I didn’t know you need written permit to clean up a dead tree, but now I know,” Lamont said. “It’ll never happen again.”

This story was originally published by The Connecticut Mirror on April 29, 2024.

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