Despite pleas from neighborhood residents to save scores of trees by not building sidewalks as part of a street reconstruction project, city officials said Wednesday night they will rebuild Cherrylawn Drive as planned this year.
“It is our intent to move forward,” Mayor Mike Bell told a meeting audience at the Heatherdowns Branch Library. “It is an important project. I believe in the project. If it isn’t done, there will be more detriment than if it is. I’m willing to take the heat. I’m paid to do that — to take the heat. It’s on me.”
Cherrylawn Drive resident Bill Coine said he was sickened by the planned removal of about 120 trees the city says are in the way of new sidewalks or will otherwise be damaged by the street work. The removals, he said, include a maple for which he has spent tree-care money because it shades his yard.
PHOTO GALLERY: Officials meet with Cherrylawn Drive Owners' Coalition
“I bought my house seven or so years ago,” he said. “I bought it because of a number of things. One was the landscaping — the beautiful, big trees. Now they want to chop down my big maple tree in my front yard, which actually makes the yard.”
Mr. Coine added that yellow ribbons were placed on trees on the street to protest their removal, but some had been removed, possibly by residents who support the construction.
The project, he said “has caused a huge rift” in the neighborhood, which was borne out by a brief argument that erupted within the audience during the meeting’s comments period.
Other speakers said the city had not done enough during project planning to notify them of the proceedings.
Project supporters were a minority at the session, but they made themselves heard too.
“This is going to help us. We are really for this project. We support it 100 percent,” said Dave Reed, a Cherrylawn resident who added that many younger families are moving to other parts of town because those neighborhoods already have sidewalks.
Cherrylawn resident Dan Markiewicz, meanwhile, said someone placed a “Save Our Trees” sign in his yard without his permission.
But neighbor Rhonda Carr said the sidewalks also may create more safety and security issues.
“This neighborhood wasn’t designed for the sidewalks. The yards are not big enough. Where they have it marked for sidewalks in my yard, it comes almost halfway up into my yard. I’m losing yard space,” she said.
Dennis Garvin, the city’s parks and recreation commissioner, said tree removal is not something the city does lightly.
“We don’t like to kill trees. It’s not something we want to do. However, it’s the scope of the work,” he said, noting that if trees damaged by the project were to be left standing, then fell over after dying, that would pose a public-safety hazard.
Replacement trees will be “planted appropriately” after the project is finished, he said.
Robin Whitney, commissioner of engineering services, said the street is in dire need of reconstruction. It is used by about 1,300 vehicles a day, which is more than normal for a residential street, she said.
City Councilman Rob Ludeman, who holds an at-large seat but lives in South Toledo, said the rebuilt street would be “very positive.”
Mr. Ludeman said he has received many calls, emails, and text messages from community members, on both sides of the project. But he declined to address the sidewalk controversy. “I’m a tree guy. I love the trees,” Mr. Ludeman said.
Also at issue is the sidewalks’ role in state funding for the $1,823,000 project, which includes a grant and a zero-interest loan of $173,185 each from the Ohio Public Works Commission.
“Originally they told us that the sidewalk component made all the difference in whether they got the grant or not,” Mr. Coine said. “There’s a scorecard that the state uses and the city has been telling us all along that the sidewalks pushed it over the top.”
Contact Kelly McLendon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6522, or on Twitter @KMcBlade.