Two Northampton residents have filed a lawsuit claiming the city broke two laws to remove cherry trees on a quiet residential street.
On July 29, the city of Northampton cut down the row of Kwanzan Japanese cherry trees that lined Warfield Place, despite strong opposition from those who live on the street.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Hampshire Superior Court, says that the city violated state law by refusing to hold a public hearing before the trees came down.
In an interview with the Globe last month, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said the city did not have to hold such a hearing as state law allows for an exemption from the requirement for a project like the one on Warfield Place. The tree removal is part of a multi-street paving program planned by the city.
The lawsuit also claims that the city took down the trees “without any prior warning” despite previously informing neighbors that they would be notified of any times when parking is prohibited. Instead, residents say that members of the Northampton police department, fire department, and Department of Public Works arrived without any warning on the morning of July 29 with tow trucks to begin clearing the trees.
That same day — and just hours after the city workers had arrived on the street — Warfield Place residents obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent the city from cutting and removing the trees before an official hearing was held.
In an e-mail to a resident that was forwarded to the Globe by the mayor’s office, Narkewicz said the tree removal was completed by the time the restraining order was approved and was “deemed moot.”
Two people were arrested for climbing the trees to keep crews from removing them.
The suit requests that the court issue a permanent restraining order forbidding Northampton from removing any public shade trees without a hearing; residents also ask that the city replace the cherry trees with “mature cherry trees” that are at least 25 feet tall.
The mayor and the city solicitor were not available Thursday to comment on the lawsuit.
John McNally, the residents’ lawyer, said that while most cases require the defendants to respond within 20 days, they are planning to give the city more time if needed.
Lois Ahrens, who lives on Warfield Place and filed the lawsuit, said although the suit won’t make the trees “reappear,” residents are trying to send a message to Northampton officials.
“Even though the trees are gone, we still want to be on record as saying that the city shouldn’t have acted in this way and that they shouldn’t act this way going forward,” she said.