EGG HARBOR CITY - Residents of the 500 block of Cincinnati Avenue may be able to replant trees in their 10-foot-wide planting strips after the city consults a certified tree expert about species of trees that won't damage new sidewalks, curbs and paving, council members said Thursday night.
Several residents unhappy that all of their block's street trees - about 30 in total - are being cut down this week attended Thursday's meeting to ask council to re-examine its policy toward street trees.
Acting Council President Hazel Mueller said she would support replanting if it won't damage street improvements.
Residents said Council President Ed Dennis had told them they would not be allowed to replant trees for fear of problems developing in future. Dennis was out of state Thursday. When he returns in two weeks the city will set up a meeting to discuss replanting possibilities, Mayor Lisa Jiampetti said.
"I feel we are a small community and a tree-lined community," resident Dolores Schorr said. "It's part of the character and beauty of our city."
Schorr asked who decided that all of the street trees had to go. She was told the city's engineering firm made the decision.
City Engineer Ryan A. McGowan, of Remington, Vernick & Walberg Engineers in Pleasantville, who was not working with the city at the time the decision was made some years ago, said typically the decision is made if there is observation of the tree roots pushing the sidewalks or lifting curbs.
No certified tree expert looked at the trees, officials said.
Council agreed there should have been more communication between the city and residents. The only notice residents received was a letter from McGowan on Friday saying work to remove the trees would begin Monday.
However, Mueller said the project has been discussed in council meetings, and legal notices have been placed in newspapers about the project periodically during the past few years.
It took a while to apply for and get a $400,000 grant to pay for the project, so this was not a new project, she said.
McGowan said he knows of no plans to remove all the trees from other blocks where sidewalk or repaving projects are planned.
Resident Chrissy Cavileer said she found a city ordinance, 170-115, saying, "Shade trees shall be provided along each side of all streets, public or private, existing or proposed."
But City Attorney James Carroll said the ordinance only applies to new construction, and redoing the street is not considered new development.
"So those of us who have been here forever, the city can take our trees out?" Cavileer asked.
"When there are dangerous conditions on sidewalks, there are liability concerns for the city," Carroll said.
Jiampetti said the city has a Shade Tree Committee, but not a commission, which has greater powers and must meet more regularly. Both Cavileer and Schorr said they would be happy to serve on a commission to help save the city's trees.
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