Tree lovers in Burlington lamented and vented this week as construction crews cleared acres of timber along North Avenue to make way for the Cambrian Rise development project.
The logging is necessary to move forward with the largest housing development in Queen City history, according to developer Eric Farrell. Crews cleared nearly half of the 21.65-acre plot, which extends down to Lake Champlain, he said. Much of the rest of the site was already without trees.
The cutting did not escape notice.
"Burlington development at Cambrian Rise property results in tree carnage. A very sad day," members of Keep the Park Green posted on Facebook, along with a series of videos and photos. The group has been advocating to preserve trees at a different Burlington project in City Hall Park.
"Our urban tree canopy is under siege," read another post, which suggested a tree preservation ordinance for the city. Other commenters posted videos of the trees falling.
"It’s a little stark," Farrell acknowledged. But, he added, "it’s the reality of developing that site." Some of the felled trees will be sawed into lumber to be used for construction. The rest will be chipped and sent to Burlington's McNeil Generating Station to be burned for electricity, he said.
The clearing will make way for 12 buildings and 739 units of housing planned for the former Burlington College site. Farrell said the project is proceeding apace.
On May 1, Champlain Housing Trust will break ground on a building with 76 affordable family units. Cathedral Square, meanwhile, plans to begin building an affordable senior living complex this fall, according to Farrell.
The developer said he received his Act 250 permit in January and now has all the necessary approvals needed to move forward.
Courtesy of Lincoln Brown Illustration
Rendering of Cambrian Rise
This month, Farrell plans to finalize sales with CHT and Cathedral Square for each organization's respective plot of land. He also plans to buy another piece of the former Burlington College building, which is owned by People's United Bank. It's attached to Liberty House, and will include commercial space on the first floor and apartments above.
The full build-out of the land is expected to take between six and eight years.
This week, crews will finish up clearing the land. As for the trees, "I've heard some pushback," he said, noting that he had gotten some calls from Burlington residents — and from media. There have been no protests so far, he said.
The tree cutting, he added, is unfortunate — but inevitable. "It had to happen sometime," he said.