Apr 19 2016

Tree Removal Rejected, Public Invited to Arbor Day Festivities April 27

April 6th Park Commission Meeting

At 5:30 pm on April 6th, 2016, the City of Piedmont’s Park Commission began their monthly meeting. The Park Commission is tasked with evaluating and recommending improvements to the City’s public parks and street trees to the city council. They meet the first Wednesday of every month at 5:30 at Piedmont’s City Hall.

The meeting began with the presentation of a donation from the Piedmont Garden Club. The Garden Club works to beautify the natural environment of Piedmont and the surrounding area and their donation reflects the Park Commission’s commitment to promoting Piedmont’s outdoor spaces.

Two new members of the Park Commission, Jim Horner and Brian Mahany, were introduced. Both had backgrounds in construction and architecture, making them well suited to sit on the Park Commission. A new Park Commission Chair and Vice Chairpersons were elected in a quick and smooth example of democracy at work.  Jamie Totsubo, a longtime member of the Park Commission, became the new Park Commission Chair.

The new Chair was immediately tested in her first Public Hearing in the position. A resident who lived at 93 Sea View Avenue had submitted a request to remove four London Plane trees from the street in front of her house. The resident claimed that the tree roots caused displacement of the sidewalk, causing a public hazard to pedestrians. The tree roots had grown so far as to reach into her basement/foundation area and contribute to water seepage and flooding into these areas. This flooding, besides causing water damage, also caused ground soil to slide which undermined her foundations. The branches of the trees were depositing leaves and tree fruit onto her roof, clogging her gutters and causing roof damage when branches break and fall onto her roof.

The resident rose during the forum and spoke at length on the problem, showing photographs and documents to support her claims. Once she finished and sat back down the Park Commission revealed they had contracted a botanist to examine the four mentioned trees. The botanist’s report showed that the four trees are healthy and growing well.

The Park Commission presented letters from four neighbors of the resident who all wanted the trees to stay, saying that the ambiance of the neighborhood would be ruined with the removal of the four large trees. The Park Commission expressed similar sentiments, saying that although the trees could be problematic, they were worth it. They agreed that the roots were an issue and that the sidewalk displacement was a pedestrian hazard that had to be addressed. They agreed to look into repaving the sidewalk and installing a root block to prevent the roots from causing any more damage. They did not propose removing the four trees however.

The resident disagreed with her neighbors and the Park Commission over the ambiance provided by the trees. She began speaking out against the trees again, sparking a heated confrontation where Chair Jamie Totsubo struggled to maintain order in the meeting room. Totsubo after the meeting stated, “It’s not usually like this, the Park Commission is normally a very reserved place. Sometimes it’s hard to please the community and individual residents at the same time.” Finally the Park Commission unanimously passed a motion to repave the sidewalk and install a root block. No member of the Commission proposed removing the trees entirely.

Jamie Totsubo was the Park Commissioner responsible for coordinating Arbor Day Festivities. Occurring on April 27th at 5 p.m., Arbor Day activities are to take place in the Piedmont Park Tea Garden. A large maple tree will be installed in a planter box already built for it. There will be refreshments and appetizers and attendees will listen to Bill McNamara, a scientist who specializes in endangered species, speak. The Piedmont Jazz Band will play during the event and the Piedmont High School AP Environmental Science class will give a presentation. The winners of the logo contest for Arbor Day were announced and two Piedmont High students were the first place and runner up.

Everett Ellis, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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