Carwash told to pay for tree-cutting ‘blunder’

By Sali McSherry
Chagrin Falls, OH (September 15, 2010)- Some Pepper Pike City Council members said at last week’s road and safety meeting they want a company that removed trees without permission to contribute money for a city beautification fund.

Waterway Gas and Wash Co., of St. Louis, is building a carwash and gas station at the northwest area of Lander Circle. The company cut dozens of trees without an approved tree plan, according to council. “This has been a $150,000 blunder by us,” Waterway Vice President Michael Goldman said, and it has caused a delay in the opening date, which had been set for the beginning of December.
Initially, the company had no plans to cut any trees and thought the screens of trees were on the neighbors’ property according to a Google earth search, Waterway Vice President Michael Goldman said. But after a formal survey of the property was completed, it was found that the trees were on Waterway’s property.
“It was obviously a mistake on our part,” Mr. Goldman said, and the company wants to fix the situation as best as it can by planting 37 trees, mostly evergreens that are about 10 feet tall, to replace the 34 it had removed. Councilwoman Jill Miller Zimon said one option that was discussed at a city planning commission meeting was that the company might give $10,000 for a city beautification fund.
Councilman Scott Newell, who chairs the planning commission, had been in discussions with Mr. Goldman about the best way to handle the incident, but he was not present at the commission meeting or the road and safety meeting last week, she said. Mr. Goldman said he believes that it makes more sense to fund specific projects rather than supplying money to a general beautification fund. But he said he’ open to the city’s requests and wants to be a good neighbor.
In July, when city Building Inspector Nino Monaco heard that the company was going to take down the trees on the north and west sides of its property, he told company representatives that they needed to explain to the planning commission why there was a change from not removing trees to cutting down dozens of them. The next morning, following an architectural board of review meeting, Mr. Monaco said, he drove by the Waterway property on his way to an inspection and saw that about dozens of trees had been removed. He issued a stop-work order. He said about 50 trees had been cut, and the company claimed 34 were removed.
Councilwoman Gail Mayland said the city was told that Waterway wanted to be a great neighbor, but it removed trees after being given a copy of the city’s tree ordinance. While planting new trees may be the best solution, it doesn’t make up for what the company did, she said. Ten years is a long time to have a lack of mature growth, especially at Lander Circle, she said.
Councilman Frederick Taft said someone pulled the trigger on clear-cutting the property, so there would be no chance for debate. It was a compounding error on the part of Waterway, he said. The mistake had been made before any choices or ramifications could be explored by the city, he said, and he understood that it was onerous for the company. Mayor Bruce H. Akers said Mr. Newell and Mr. Goldman were scheduled to report back last night (Sept. 15) about the best option, whether it’s beautification of specific areas of the city funded by Waterway or a general fund into which the company would pay.
One of the main issues is that the city’s zoning permits a commercially zoned property to be built out to the property line — a regulation council wants to consider changing, to require greater setbacks. The city plans to make an inventory of commercial properties still available. Council will consider amending the zoning, perhaps requiring more green space and rear and side setbacks to be greater. Those zoning issues would then be placed on the ballot.
Related Resource:
Chagrin Valley Times- Carwash told to pay for tree-cutting ‘blunder’