Riverfront estate tree removal draws scrutiny

Jann Wenner proposal gets a warning light after he's cited for unauthorized tree removal at Teviot

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A request by Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner to remove some trees on his new riverfront property in Red Hook’s landmark district has unearthed a growing controversy.

Wenner, owner of the 69-acre Teviot estate in Tivoli, is seeking permission to remove 17 trees on his neighboring 19-acre property at 245 Woods Road. A special permit is required for any site changes within 1,000 feet of the Hudson River.

But Wenner’s request is being considered in the light of what Red Hook planners call substantial unauthorized tree removal at Teviot, and he will now have to document each tree he wants to cut down on his other property before he gets approval for the plan.

Though 245 Woods Road is considered a separate parcel today, it was originally part of Teviot, former home of the Livingston family in the late 1800s, which Wenner and his partner Matt Nye purchased in 2008 for $5.8 million. Both properties are in Red Hook’s National Historic Landmarks District.

On the Woods Road property, purchased for $1.8 million in 2011, Wenner applied for and received a permit to demolish the six-year-old single-family house and build a new one. Along with that, he submitted a landscaping plan for tree removal to the Red Hook Town Planning Board at its April 16 meeting.

The trees in question lie between the house and the cliff-line descent to the Hudson River and represent the northern edge of a group of about 150 trees. Attorney Jon Adams, representing Wenner’s management group, told the board that the tree removals are part of a forestry management plan aimed at promoting the overall health of the woods in the area. Improving the view of the river was “incidental,” he added.

According to a letter written by the project’s arborist Mark Barry and submitted by Adams, the cutting will “enhance the growth of more significant trees by removing surrounding trees that inhibit growth.” The selected trees, said Adams, are undesirable for several reasons. “For example, many of these trees are leaning because they cannot get light, and so obviously a tree that’s leaning is going to fall at some point,” he noted.

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