Council votes to allow arborist to decide on Club pine tree removal

The Claremont City Council Tuesday night reached an agreement palatable to both sides of a longstanding debate over the Claremont Club neighborhood’s pine trees and the city’s tree replacement policy.

While 44 trees have the potential to go, should a certified arborist deem it necessary, the city will not move forward in changing its tree replacement policies as they stand.

For years the city has combated structural damage caused by a series of mature pines in the neighborhood-including those found on Shenandoah Drive, Davenport, Elmhurst, Gettysburg and Stanislaus Circles. This summer, the city will move forward with a $167,060 project to more extensively repair damaged hardscape. At the same time, staff hopes to evaluate the roots of the designated “problem trees” and determined those that need to go. Up to 44 mature trees might be cut down, costing a total of $38,060, if deemed necessary by a certified arborist.

In order to prepare for future incidents in the neighborhood, city administrators also recommended adopting a hardscape repair and tree replacement program, which would have trees evaluate every 4 years and removed if necessary. Despite the program’s desire to anticipate future problems, residents took issue with the program’s lack of adherence to the city’s already-adopted policies when it comes to the trees. Claremont resident Ray Fowler brought up the city’s sustainability plan, which states that the city will “protect, improve and expand our urban forest.”

“It’s awfully hard for me to fathom how the proposed tree replacement program is in any way going to ‘protect, improve and expand our urban forest,’” Mr. Fowler said.

Members of the Club’s homeowners association agreed that a certified arborist should be the one to determine a tree’s removal. However, the HOA was also believes that the practice of root pruning is not an acceptable way to mitigate the damage caused by these trees.

“At best [root pruning] compromises stability and at worst compromises [the tree’s] health,” said Dennis Vlasich, president of the HOA board. “We do not want any more trees to be removed than is absolutely necessary and we believe that the city staffs plan to assess each tree, not just those on Shenandoah, to determine if it should be determined and replaced is reasonable and responsible.”

The council struck a compromise. Council members unanimously agreed to move forward with the slurry project and the examination of the 44 designated trees by a certified arborist. Council members agreed that the trees should be removed if deemed necessary. On the other hand, the council did not agree with the Hardscape and Tree Replacement program as written, believing that trees should only be removed if a certified arborist determined that a tree had sustained significant damage as a result of root pruning.

Check the print edition of the COURIER on Friday for complete coverage of Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

—Beth Hartnett


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