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April 17, 2013

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Brian, there's been a lot of wailing and nashing of teeth over US Bank's removal of the trees, but I haven't seen anyone (including yourself) look at the relevant chapter of city code governing the removal.

Chapter 86.130(c) reads as follows:

(c) In addition to the above regulations, the following guidelines shall apply to the planting of trees in the Salem Downtown Historic District and the Central Business District:
(1) Trees shall not be planted in a location which would obscure significant architectural features.

The trees clearly obscured the significant architectural features of the unique US Bank building, and I think it's quite clear that US Bank had every right under city code to have the trees removed.

Rather than bitch about the city's decision, you should put your energies into changing this provision of the code so that it doesn't happen again. You may not like US Bank's desire to remove the trees, but I think it's clear that under the current code, the city really had no choice but to allow their removal.

M, you're behind the times. Other people, including me, have noted that the city ordinance talks about "planting" trees, not cutting them down.

These trees were legally planted. Three of them have died for the crime of growing, which is what trees do. The city's Urban Forester said the trees could be pruned to keep them from obscuring the building's architectural features. Or one/two could be cut down.

I've talked with another forester who has the same opinion. Thus there is no connection between expert testimony, the tree ordinance, and the City's unjustified approval of the tree-cutting.

Here's an excerpt from an email I sent to the city councilors, mayor, and city manager today. I tell it like it is:

-------------------

The record shows that Mr. Fernandez gave Ryan Allbritton another chance at a Shade Tree Advisory Committee meeting because Fernandez remembered that in 2010 he had promised the trees would be removed, and Allbritton figured he didn't need to go to the first committee meeting because the decision to remove the trees would be "pro forma" given that promise.

Hmmmm. It's hard to jibe that promise from the Public Works Director, two years before the current US Bank request was made, with the "due process" all citizens are supposedly entitled to. Why couldn't Mr. Fernandez have said, "Ryan, if you apply to have the trees removed, I'lll consider that request fairly"? But he didn't. Apparently a firm promise to remove the trees was made to the US Bank regional president by the City of Salem Public Works manager before an application was even made, or the public review process initiated.

Can you understand why so many people in Salem are cynical about getting involved in civic affairs? I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "There's no point; the City just does what the Chamber of Commerce wants it to do." (Allbritton, of course, is the president-elect of the Chamber of Commerce.)

And now it turns out that the City gave opponents of the tree-cutting no chance to appeal the decision. This injustice needs to remedied. FAST.

Why is the Chamber of Commerce driving the City of Salem?

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