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Maumee couple seek to protect historic elm


Claudia and Dan Stein say construction of a driveway next door may damage their 150-year-old American elm.


The life of a majestic 150-year-old American elm tree is being threatened, its owners in Maumee say.

Drought? Dutch elm disease? No. A driveway.

Dan and Claudia Stein, who live on West Harrison Street in the city's historic district, contend that construction of a driveway on a lot next door could injure the tree, eventually killing it.

The American elm is listed as a historic tree with the Maumee Tree Commission and is recognized as one of northwest Ohio's largest and most well-preserved elm trees, according to information presented by the Steins to city officials.

“It is 90 feet tall,” said Mrs. Stein, who also said that construction of the driveway would fall within the tree's drip line, disrupting the root system that would weaken the tree. The tree then could be susceptible to Dutch elm disease which has killed off many elms in this country since the 1930s.

The Steins are circulating petitions in the city to try to strengthen their campaign efforts to save the tree, valued at $17,600, and the City Council could end up voting on the matter, officials said.

Brad and Debbie Wotring, of Toledo, have applied for architectural approval of the proposed new home to be constructed at 317 West Harrison on a vacant lot. They also have asked for a variance on the front setback.

The applications have been tabled until the administrative board of review and the architectural board of review meet on Oct. 9, said Bruce Wholf, building and zoning inspector.

Mr. Wotring declined to comment about the issue, but referred questions to his attorney Russell Miller. Mr. Miller said that he had just met with his client, and was not in the position to fully assess the matter yet.

The Steins are asking that the administrative board reject the Wotrings' building plans unless there is a written agreement outlining steps that would be taken to protect the tree prior to and during construction.

In conjunction with the Wotrings' applications, a request has been made by Winston and Bernita Vance, who live near the Steins, to reopen a portion of an alley so that the Wotrings can build a rear driveway.

Larry Gamble, director of public service for Maumee, said his department is reviewing the request to reopen the alleyway, and that information will be presented to council members who will make a decision on the issue.

City officials, he said, are “very well aware of the concerns that the Steins have for the tree.”

The Steins have proposed several alternatives, including locating the driveway elsewhere on the property, to help protect the tree.

“There are no laws to protect trees on private property,” Mrs. Stein said, but according to an attorney representing the Steins, the city code requires that anyone constructing driveways or curb openings “shall protect all trees, lawns, shrubbery and other improvements from damage.”

Mrs. Stein has been in contact with members of the Tree Commission.

Alan Bunker, a consulting arborist from Waynesville, Ohio, said that the tree, which has an impressive appearance, looks very good now, and it could live to be several hundred years old. The tree measures about 13 feet in circumference at 4.5 feet above the ground.

“A year ago,” Mrs. Stein said, “I never dreamed I would be a tree activist. This tree is so much a part of our property.”

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