WESTFIELD – The Westfield City Council Finance subcommittee voted Jan. 19 to recommend acceptance of a state grant of $20,000 to the Department of Public Works for Urban Forest Enhancement and the waiver of a $1,000 special permit fee for the Boys & Girls Club’s planned expansion on city property.
Scott Hathaway, deputy superintendent of Westfield Parks & Recreation, said the grant is to help the city to prepare to plant 800 trees per year for the next four years in the Greening the Gateway Cities program.
Most of the plantings will be focused on repopulating street trees in Environmental Justice neighborhoods in Wards 2 and 3, which include areas with over 25% of residents who are low income, minority or non-English speaking, and in environmentally challenged areas.
Hathaway said he would be meeting with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) this week to go over the program and the next steps for the city. He said Westfield is the 10th or 12th city in the program, which should be starting soon. “They have the kinks ironed out,” he said.
Previously, Hathaway said the DCR will purchase the trees and provide the labor for the plantings, amounting to an over a million dollar investment. He said the trees will all be in good condition, a good size, averaging six feet in height, and drought and heat resistant. The DCR will also work with property owners in the selections of the trees.
Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy and Ward 3 Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane, a new member of the Finance committee, have a friendly wager on which ward will plant more trees.
Also recommended was a waiver of the zoning and permitting fee of $1,081 for the Boys & Girls Club planned expansion. City Planner Jay Vinskey said the request came through the Mayor’s office.
Matthews-Kane asked historically how often waivers occur.
“Since I’ve been here, I don’t believe there has been a waiver. One difference here is this is on city property,” Vinskey said. He said the special permit has been issued for the Club, and the check is sitting on his desk, waiting for the decision.
Both recommendations will now go to the CIty Council for final approval.