New streetscape to proceed
- Published: August 28, 2014
Village government will soon move ahead to complete the streetscape changes on the east side of Xenia Avenue, from Dino’s Cappuccinos on the north end to Glen Street in the south, according to Village Manager Patti Bates at the Aug. 18 Council meeting. Bids for the project will go out this Friday, Aug. 22, and Bates will bring legislation back to Council to award the bid at its Sept. 2 meeting. In a written report to Council, Bates said she hopes to begin the project immediately after the bid is approved, and it should be finished in October.
The project will include removing eight callery pear trees and replacing the trees with three different species; pouring new sidewalks; replacing streetlamps with new, more energy-efficient lights and burying electrical lines. It is the second phase of a downtown streetscape project begun by former Village Manager Mark Cundiff and expanded by former Manager Laura Curliss two years ago. However, the project sparked controversy at the time due to the cutting down of trees, so Council then moved ahead with only a portion of the changes; the current project constitutes the second phase. The third phase, which includes the same changes to the west side of Xenia Avenue, will take place at a later time.
Council members acknowledged on Monday night that many villagers are troubled by the cutting down of trees, but that the project needs to move ahead in order to address a variety of downtown problems.
“There is some sadness about the trees. I love to look at them,” Council member Lori Askeland said, especially in the spring when the trees have fluffy white blossoms. However, the decision to move forward is necessary due to “all that needs to be done, and the trees are nearing the end of their lives.”
The pear trees, which have a life span of about 25 years, have been in the location for about 40 years, and are considered an invasive species. They will be replaced with three kinds of trees selected by Street Crew head Jason Hamby with the advice of the Yellow Springs Tree Committee — the replacement trees will include European hornbeams and lacebark elms, along with a third variety not yet selected, Bates said.
The project began years ago due to the need for downtown sidewalk repair because of the buckling of sidewalks, partly due to tree roots, according to Bates. It was expanded under Curliss to include replacing the tall downtown streetlamps with shorter lights with a railroad look that focus light closer to the ground and are more energy efficient — some of the new lights were installed at the north end of Xenia Avenue in front of The Winds and on Dayton Street. The expanded project also includes burying electrical lines so that in the future the street trees don’t need to be topped, as they are now.
The Tree Committee and Glen Helen support the project, and Glen Director Nick Boutis spoke to Council regarding the need to replace the pear trees due to their invasive nature.
“I’m someone who loves trees, but if we don’t manage trees they will exert consequences on us,” he said. He encouraged Council to find replacement trees native to Ohio in order to contribute to the “Ohioness of the downtown streetscape.”
It’s important to eradicate an invasive species before it becomes established in an area, as is the case with the honeysuckle that is pervasive in the Glen, Boutis said, and there is still time to do so with the callery pears. He also encouraged the Village to create a management plan for the downtown trees so that in the future tree replacement could be staggered rather than a one-time event.
Two villagers at the Aug. 18 meeting expressed distress about plans to remove the trees. Deborah McGee described the pear trees as “crucial for the ambiance of downtown,” and Carole Cobbs encouraged Council not to remove all the trees at once.
In other Council business:
• Several villagers expressed concern about recent news that Yellow Springs is a member of the Greene County Regional SWAT team, although an officer is not currently assigned to the team. At Council’s last meeting, it decided to not assign an officer to SWAT until a public discussion on the topic is held, and asked the Human Relations Commission to organize the discussion.
Villager Uta Schenck, the mother of Paul E. Schenck, who was killed during a shoot-out with police and SWAT teams last July 31, spoke of her concerns regarding SWAT, and her belief that the SWAT presence contributed to her son’s death. During that event, “I think the SWAT teams, the vehicles made it worse,” Schenck said, and urged the Village to stop its connection with SWAT.
Matt Carson questioned the local police participation in both SWAT and the Drug Task Force. He also urged Council to form a citizen committee to have oversight over police activities.
However, Sue Abendroth told Council that it would be wrong to give unelected citizens power over the police. She also expressed support for having local police involved in the drug task force.
The more communication between the local police and the community, the better, Council member Marianne MacQueen said, stating her support for the upcoming HRC discussion on policing.
Other items of Council’s Aug. 18 business will be in next week’s News.