Some N. Plum St. residents are unhappy about plans to remove trees for street reconstruction

 North Plum St., east side  North Plum St., east side  North Plum St., east side

  North Plum St., west side  North Plum St., west side  North Plum St., west side
I was alerted by some North Plum St. residents that they’re unhappy with the City of Northfield’s plan to cut down some of the big trees on their street, part of the Linden St N/Plum St N/2nd St W street reconstruction project that’s about to begin.  I took the above photos this morning.

There are a number of variables to consider, of course, when trying to decide about saving trees during street reconstruction, e.g., street width, boulevard width, sidewalks on both sides or not, condition of/types of/size of trees, which side of the street the gas/sewer lines will go, and probably several more.

Elm St. between 4th and 5th  Elm St. between 4th and 5th
In the past, the City has sometimes accommodated residents’ concerns about big trees.  For example, the sidewalk was routed around two big trees on Elm St. between 4th and 5th a few years ago, as the above photos show.

Looking at the Project Process page, the City had 3 neighborhood meetings last fall. "Neighborhood Tour & Individual Property Owner Meetings" are scheduled for April/May.

It’s not clear to me to what extent residents have participated in these meetings and voiced their objections, nor what the city engineering staff’s response has been.

Maybe discussion here can help.

Update 5/14 9:30 am:

tree at 309 N. Linden st.  tree at 309 N. Linden st.  trees at 315 N. Linden st.  trees at 315 N. Linden st.
Here are photos of two homes on the west side of N. Linden St., (309 and 315) before and after the big (maple?) trees were cut down this week.

Update 5/20 7:30 am:

Here’s a one-minute video of the trees of N. Plum St. (pre-reconstruction) heading north between St. Olaf Ave. and Greenvale Ave. My apologies for the shakiness. I was holding the camera with one hand while driving.

78 thoughts on “Some N. Plum St. residents are unhappy about plans to remove trees for street reconstruction”

  1. Yesterday, I was informed by a city engineer that the nearly 100 year old black walnut tree in front of our house is slated to be cut down as part of the roadwork being done on North Plum Street.

    The city engineer explained that the road will be widened by one foot on either side because of a city ordinance; because of this ordinance and the fact that the power lines will need to be moved, virtually every mature tree on the block will need to be removed or severely trimmed. Widening the road and removing the mature trees is not only an aesthetic and environmental mistake, it will lower the value of each home on the street. I do not understand what will be gained by widening the road.

    I’ve asked for a formal explanation from the mayor and members of the city council. Erica Zweifel is the only member of the council who has responded to my concerns and she was the only member of the council to vote against the project.

    I choose to live in Northfield because it is a progressive and beautiful community. I conscientiously object to the removal of trees for the reconstruction of Plum Street North. Please help us protect the mature trees on North Plum Street by contacting city officials to oppose the tree removal!

    1. David- I do not live on your street, but, having grown up on a farm, I sympathize with your connections to the trees. Most trees take 30-40 years to reach maturity. I just have a few questions. What are the ramifications of a city street being out of compliance with an ordinance? Are there any financial liabilities for which the city would be liable if it does not correct the street? Is it possible for the residents along the street to apply for a variance from the ordinance? Also, is an EAW needed here?

  2. Angie and I live at 409 Plum (green house in the above pictures) and will be going door to door this evening with a petition asking the city to reconsider widening the street. I hope everyone is available to read and sign the petition. We will deliver the signatures to the city tomorrow. Below is the language in the petition:

    We, the citizens of North Plum Street in Northfield, MN, petition the City of Northfield to reconsider the widening of Plum Street to 32’ during reconstruction this summer/fall of 2011. We collectively feel that the change is unnecessary mainly due to the following reasons listed below:

    1) Widening of the street will most likely increase the vehicle traffic speed on the street. Many of the citizens are already concerned with excessive speed after repaving is complete and adding two feet to the width may add to this problem. We feel this poses a significant danger to pedestrians, specifically young children and senior citizens, along with pets that may stray from yards.

    2) Widening of the street will force many of the large and beautiful trees that have existed for decades to be removed, changing the landscape of the street for generations to come. These historic trees are in some cases the reason why people decided to reside in this area versus a new development. They also provide valuable shade from the sun and protection from wind and rain. Not to mention they provide homes for many different types of wildlife.

    3) We feel that there is no real reason for the widening of the street. It is a quiet street, with minimal traffic flow and is not a main artery through town. The decision should be left to the property owners who live on the street and are paying a significant portion of the improvement cost.

  3. I absolutely agree with resident concerns. Residential streets DO NOT need to be 32′, ever, and certainly not when creating the width involves destroying the aesthetic of the street. This is an apocalypse-engineering mentality that should not be taken lying down. (My understanding is that the justification is that fire trucks need certain standards for access; reasonable, except 30-8-8 [parked car on both side] = 14 ft, plenty of space.)

    The Ekerns’ comment above is right — vehicle speed will go up, endangering children and other pedestrians. Ironically, this makes the street less safe in the name of safety. If the city engineer is so concerned about this, perhaps other measures — like eliminating parking on one side — should be considered. I’d imagine residents would be more receptive to that than destroying dozens of mature trees.

    However, I will note that nearly all Minneapolis residential streets are well under 32′, with parking on both sides, and the city has managed to not burn to the ground.

    1. Sean- You might consult Mn Rule 8820.9936 at this link-
      https://www.revisor.mn.gov/rules/?id=8820.9936
      According to this requirement, streets with less that 10,000 vehicles per day require two 11′ lanes, 8′ of parking one side and 2′ of gutter. This adds up to 32′. Does anyone know what the Northfield City Code requires? I tried looking for it on the Northfield web site, and the page expired before I could get through the 314 pages of the FIRST pdf file. Now I see why some people complain about that site!

      1. Sean- Are you sure this is NOT a MSA funded project? I know that MSA isn’t much anymore, but even if some of the funds for the project come from MSA, then the whole project has to meet the requirements.

      2. John — no, I’m not sure, but generally very minor streets like this are not MSA streets. There is no mention of it being an MSA project, unlike similar projects on E 4th St and Lincoln Pkwy.

        In any case, I’m quite comfortable saying the standards are wrong for this street either way, but I certainly acknowledge it would be much less viable to get an exception to state standards than to city.

      3. Sean- According to Griff’s post 7, it appears that a 30′ wide street CAN be considered. The disappointing part, for me at least, is that it would only save 6 out of 31 trees along the road. I suppose that if one of the trees were mine, I would be pushing for the 30′ street, but still, losing 25 trees is quite an impact. I wonder what considerations are being made in set-backs of new trees being planted along street updates to allow for future expansions? Of course, 30 years ago, did anyone foresee that a 32′ wide street might someday be a requirement?

    2. John, City Code (see Division 3 Design Standards) requires 32 feet of pavement width for a local street.

      I paced the width of Plum and it appeared to already be 32 feet. David/Chris, can you measure it? And have City staff told you that the reason the trees have to be removed is that the street must be widened to meet code?

      1. Griff- Thanks for that link. You bring up an intersting point about the public hearings for this project.

  4. David and Chris, thanks for chiming in here.

    It would help to know more about the public process. It’s very late in the game, given that the City evidently held 3 neighborhood meetings last Oct, Nov, and Dec. and construction has begun on Linden. Did you and your neighbors know about these meetings and attend them? If so, what was the response from city engineering staff to your concerns?

    1. Griff,

      Unfortunately I did not attend any of the meetings. My next door neighbor did, and maybe I can get him to log on and give his input on the process. I seem to remember him saying he sat there for 2 hours at one of the meetings and the council still had not gotten to the reconstruction talk yet.

      I’m going to measure the street tonight. I seem to recall it was 30′ according to the Eng Tech that met with us. All I remember is him saying they will add 1′ on each side.

  5. The packet for the April 19 Council meeting included an INFRASTRUCTURE TREE REPLACEMENT POLICY (pages 74-76) which I assume was approved by the Council. It states:

    1.01. The City of Northfield has a variety of tree species in its urban forest. Some of those trees are of considerable age, size and historical significance. Routine pruning, removal and replacement of the trees within the boulevard are a responsibility of the City.

    1.02. As the City performs infrastructure projects there are normally trees that need to be removed due to their proximity to the construction. These trees are removed as part of the project by a tree removal contactor, and the costs for the removals are paid for as part of the project.

    1.03. There are also trees that may be damaged during the project. These trees are either further from the construction and/or smaller and as a result it is possible that they appear to survive the construction. However, in the future that tree may become stressed and die. Removal of those individual trees is more expensive due to the contractor mobilization costs for a single tree. In addition this removal is charged to the general fund budget since the final costs have already been charged to the project.

    1.04. In order to reduce the impact to the general fund budget as well as attempt to save a larger number of trees the infrastructure tree replacement program is established to pay for the removal and possible replacement of trees noted in paragraph 1.03. This fund will be used for removals of trees that have been significantly stressed or died within five (5) years of the completion of an infrastructure project. The program will be funded from revenues used to finance the ongoing street reconstruction projects.

    1.05. Trees that will be given consideration to be saved must meet the following criteria:

    a. The proposed tree must be of a desired species as listed in the Northfield Land Development Code.

    b. The proposed tree must be inspected by either the City Forester or licensed arborist to determine the tree’s health.

    c. The proposed tree must be in good health and free of hazards.

    d. No ash trees will be saved due to the possibility of the Emerald Ash Borer entering the Northfield area.

    1.06. If the decision is made to save the tree, the Public Works Department will record the address and tree species. During the infrastructure project efforts will be made to maintain the tree’s root structure. At a minimum this means disturbance in the area of the root ball be kept to a minimum. After the infrastructure project is completed, the fiveyear timeframe for the use of funds from this program will begin. Staff will insure that trees planned for removal due to hazard are checked to see if they are in this program.

    a. Due to the small number of City staff the owner of the tree should be sure to report failing health of the tree to the Public Works Department at 507-645-3050.

    b. If the tree needs to be removed during the five-year timeframe, the tree may be replaced with a tree from the City’s desired tree list.

    1. Griff, The walnut tree in David’s yard is one of those 6 trees that could be saved with a 30′ road. The 6 trees are circled on pg. 8 of that pp presentation. Unfortunately all three sugar maples on my property have an X, which means they are slated for removal.

      1. Griff,

        Thanks for facilitating conversation about the North Plum Street reconstruction project!

        Twenty-seven of the neighbors on the street signed the petition that Chris posted above and it was presented to the city this morning. Many of the residents did attend the meetings and it sounds like the city was not at all open to feedback about the project. It is clear that the majority of the residents on the street are opposed to the reconstruction plans.

        Betsey Buckheit contacted me today to let me know that leaders of the city had an informal conversation last night about the reconstruction and they believe that it is too late to stop the project. I disagree. The project has not started yet on North Plum Street. I ask the city to immediately halt the project. Redesign it. Engage the citizens who live on the street in the planning. The idea of representative government is that it is, well, representative. This project is not representative of what the residents of the street want and it should be stopped.

  6. For the City Council’s deliberations on this project, I recommend watching the March 15 City Council meeting (Item 18 on the agenda.) I think there are three issues that are mixed together in the discussion. First, tree removal policy for road projects; second, street widths; and third, road maintenance.

    No one appears to be in favor of unnecessary tree removals, but almost all of the trees slated for removal would be removed with either a 30′ or 32′ road width. Most, but not all. A policy for tree removal is needed, but more important is a policy about tree plantings. Are we going to continue to plant trees that live for 150+ years in boulevards that will be torn up in 50 or so years? Why do we plant trees that grow 75′ tall under electric wires that can’t have contact with trees? If we had swales, could we plant trees on front lawns instead, where they wouldn’t be subject to the pressures of road reconstruction? (Swales vs. curb & gutter is yet another aspect of the road reconstruction conversation. What if we had swales instead of curbs and gutters, which would allow more rain water to slowly infiltrate into the ground instead of rushing down streets, channeled by curbs into storm drains?)

    There are mixed thoughts about standard street widths. If there’s a place in a city that standard streets widths make sense, it’s in the neighborhoods that have a standard street grid system. But is 32′ the appropriate width, or is 30′ more suited to residential streets? Can streets be even narrower and still be safe for traffic, emergency vehicles, snow removal, etc…?

    Everyone agrees that our roads are in poor condition and need attention. This issue trumped the others in the discussion for the 2011 street reconstruction projects.

    I was contacted by one resident of the affected street projects as the process unfolded. We talked and emailed several times. I wish I had heard from more residents of Plum Street. At the March 15th City Council meeting where the motion to approve the projects was debated and voted on, there were no comments from the public. I voted for the project even after debating against it because I felt that making progress on our deteriorating streets was the most significant aspect of the debate. I continue to support moving forward with the project and hope that Northfield residents who have suggestions for street improvements and tree policies will voice them. I welcome contact from Northfield residents.

    Patrick Ganey
    Northfield City Council – Ward 4
    patrick.ganey@ci.northfield.mn.us
    507-301-6564

    1. Patrick,

      Thanks for chiming in…

      I am disappointed your vote was swayed form No to Yes in such a short time. I disagree that the poor condition of the road should trump the issue of tree removal and especially safety. There are many young children residing on this street and to create a situation where traffic speed will undoubtedly increase just does not make sense.

      My wife and I knocked on every door on Plum street two nights ago with a petition to have the city reconsider the widening… and 100% of the people that were at home agreed with us that the road should stay the same. How often can a group of people have complete and total agreement on an issue?

  7. It is sad to see the trees go. One of the reasons we liked our street so much is the trees. The neighborhood meetings were the time to talk about this.

    My question at those meetings was could we put rain gardens in the boulevard and put in some curb cuts to allow the stormwater off the road to come in like what has been done in parts of Burnsville and other cities. I was told NO. I understand that some areas are not suitable for rain gardens but if we can put in trees why not rain gardens? The City may not wish to count it as part of official stormwater reductions but it would help the River anyhow. Something for the Council to think about as they consider future projects.

    1. Beth, the resistance may be due to the concern for water collecting on the road and long-term damage to the road that would result (older streets on the St. Olaf campus have drainage from curb cuts, and the resulting poor drainage has led to terrible asphalt damage). More likely, though, the resistance was because it was such a nonstandard request.

      Honestly, the best thing environmentally and financially would be to just have flat curbs, and allow it to flow into the boulevard (lowered slightly to function as a ditch). No flow into river, no drains to clear out. The only place you really need traditional curb and gutter is where there is no green space (like downtown). But I doubt city staff would be receptive to this, either.

      1. At a recent Council meeting rain gardens in boulevard strips came up and the City Engineer , Katy Gehler, said it was NOT an option because of the maintenance required… That is an opinion by Ms. Gehler, based on her assessment of the resources she has at hand to deal with the prioritized goals of the Council/.
        This was at the same meeting that the lack of maintenance on the City’s 30-40 stormwater ponds was ‘outed’.
        In order to comply with the MNstatute requirements which state that because of the “outstanding resource value water” that is the Cannon River, Northfield must return its stormwater discharge levels to 1984 amounts.

        SO… it seems to me that priorities have to be set, and that needs to be done by the Council setting its priorities by its core policies, which the Staff must then implement.

        Northfield can choose its priorities and fund them as it sees possible; priorities mean choosing what to fund and what not to fund.

        SO … IMO, this is a matter of fulfilling the vision that NF often expresses about itself… OR… putting your money where your mouth is, to state it in a more colloquial manner.

  8. Patrick,

    The City of Northfield did not clearly communicate to residents about the ramifications of the reconstruction project. The city provided no written documentation to residents of the street regarding the potential impact to property resulting from the construction. If the city had clearly communicated prior to the hearings, the room would have been packed, and solid opposition from all of the residents would have been voiced sooner.

    Now that the ramifications of the project are clear, you have heard from twenty-seven residents on the street that they unanimously oppose the project. Your job, as an elected officials, is to represent the citizens of Northfield. It is very clear that the neighbors oppose this project throughout the process and you are not representing the community.

    It is politically unwise not to represent your constituency. Property taxes are already exorbitantly high in comparison to other communities, the housing market it sluggish, and the city is obviously struggling to attract new businesses. You should be valuing the concerns of members of the community and making collaborative decisions, not imposing an inflexible design standard on resistant residents.

    None of the leaders have taken the time to come and visit North Plum Street. I have invited the mayor and the city council members to walk the street to see what the ramifications of the proposed reconstruction plan will be. It is disconcerting to me that none of the leaders of the community have come to look at what will be lost if this project is completed as planned.

    You have heard from twenty-seven of us that we oppose this project. As residents of Plum Street North, we continue to conscientiously oppose the design for this reconstruction project. You need to be responsive to voting citizens of Northfield.

    It is not too late to stop this project. The trees are still standing. All contracts have terms and/or conditions for the termination of contract. Terminate the contract. Re-design the project. Engage the residents in the planning.

    Keep Northfield beautiful. Keep Northfield unique.

    Sincerely,
    David Wagner

  9. Northfield community members,

    I am appalled at the lack of communication and concern on behalf of the Northfield City Council members. For a city that allegedly values history, tradition, and community the consideration of drastically altering the ambiance of our neighborhoods is not only discouraging; it is devastating.

    Citizens of Northfield look to the City Council to act on their behalf, and in this instance, I believe our elected individuals have failed. Those of us who work full time rely on our leaders to pay attention to the issues that matter to the greater good. When those leaders fail to connect with their constituency, the entire notion of our democratic-republic is undermined.

    The notion that we must alter the environment to meet our needs is ludicrous. Some of the trees scheduled to be removed have been a part of Northfield long before electrical wires were installed or any of us were born. Planting new trees is a great idea if you are a first grader celebrating Earth Day, but it in this instance it does not address the real issue. Planting saplings will not rectify the destruction of ambiance, history, nor biodiversity.

    If the Northfield City Council members are truly concerned with values of their constituents, neighbors, and community members this destructive project needs to be stopped immediately.

    Keep Northfield beautiful. Keep Northfield unique.

    Laura

  10. An interesting and important issue–I’m inclined to side with the residents as well. It sounds like the ramifications of the project weren’t entirely made clear until recently, and I agree with the residents–if I wanted to live on a street with puny trees that were planted a year ago, I’d move to a new suburban development. This is a huge reason people buy houses here–can anyone else imagine how bald and perhaps laughable Plum Street will look without its mature trees?

    I would urge the City to consider alternatives–surely there must be ways to think outside the box and avoid the “apocalypse-engineering mentality” that Sean mentions. Engaging citizens in the discussion and thinking creatively about alternative solutions while still adhering to code is what we hope our elected officials would do. I know the job won’t be as easy or the process as streamlined, but I think it’s the right thing to do on behalf of constituents.

  11. I asked Councilor Patrick Ganey to chime here and I’m pleased that he’s done so, with a very substantive reply.

    I did NOT ask him to participate in an ongoing discussion here, as that requires a much bigger commitment, both from him and from me as a moderator.

    I think it’s probably true that the project COULD be stopped in its tracks right now. For example, if another part of Northfield was hit hard by a tornado tonight, all resources would go towards recovery and the Plum St. project would be put on the shelf for weeks, months, or longer.

    But looking at it from the Council’s viewpoint, they have some huge issues in front of them, especially the Safety Center, and that issue alone is requiring a lot of attention from the City engineering staff.

    Part of being an elected official is having to weigh competing interests related to the common good. That trumps representing the interests/point of view of any single group.

    So while I think the city should review how the citizen engagement on this project was handled so that it can learn from it, I can understand Councilors’ reluctance to stop the project, given the late date and the other public demands that are competing for attention and dollars right now.

    That said, were I living on Plum with those gorgeous trees in front of my house about to cut down, I’d be devastated, too.

  12. In addition to Councillor Ganey, the Plum Street residents are also represented by the At-Large Councillors Rhonda Pownell and Kris Vohs. Please contact them if you haven’t already.

    It might also be helpful to mention that the underlying problem, i.e. Northfield’s streets/engineering/transportation plans and policies) should be revisited; they provide the underlying skeleton or framework upon which other decisions are made. A tree-replacement policy will be limited in its effectiveness if the underlying issue isn’t corrected.

    If there are any experienced civil engineers who are willing to donate their time and expertise to exploration of this issue, I’d love to hear from them!

  13. Is timing the main concern at this point? Based on Patrick’s comments, it sounds like there are many questions about how to address road maintenance, but at this point we are too far along to halt this particular project. The trees are irreplaceable. They will not be restored in our lifetime; the loss is permanent. What exactly is at stake on the other side? I’m not clear on why we need to keep moving forward, especially considering unanimous opposition from the residents.

  14. Hello neighbors, concerned citizens, and staff/council members of the city,

    I do not think it is too late to re-design the project— please consider an alternative that might allow for saving the trees that are slated to be cut down this week. I live on Plum St., signed the petition that was delivered to the city yesterday, and can not imagine the street without the mature trees that have been allowed to grow (around) the electric lines over the years. Re-planted trees will not replace what is currently there (please come over to the street if you haven’t already).

    I was not at the scheduled meetings for this project. I did not know that the trees might be cut down until I came home and saw the pink circle which prompted a call to the city. If I would have known about the meetings I would have been at the meetings. I strongly believe in being involved and know that “showing up” is an important way to show concern. I don’t believe that the details of this project were clearly communicated to us. However, I am disheartened to hear from others who did attend the meetings and voiced concern but felt as if their voice did not have an impact on the final decision.

    I went to the chapel service at St. Olaf this morning and found Professor Farrell’s talk particularly relevant to this situation. If you have chance, take a few minutes to listen: http://www.stolaf.edu/multimedia/streams/playevent.cfm?eventid=1653&chapel=true

    We should not only try to live a “good life” but should live creatively and intentionally to live the best possible life. Cutting down trees because of a plan designed without sufficient communication or input from the citizens does not seem like the right solution. It is not too late to listen to the residents of Plum St.and consider the possible alternatives to the current project. Please put a hold on this plan to allow time to be creative and intentionally create a plan which would take into account the desires of those who will be most affected.

    Thank you for your time,
    Jenny

  15. Engineering ‘standards’ that destroy community trees, and all the good they do, in order to repave a street should be changed.

    1. William- I guess there is some subjectivity in what a person considers a “standard” in cases like this. If the standard is unobstructed vision and effeciency of traffic movement, then trees probably will be trumped. If esthetics and shade are the standard, then effecient traffic flow will be trumped. One thing I have noticed in driving older residential streets (in any town) is that mature trees obstruct visibility, especially of small children playing. I have been surprised (terrified?) any number of times by small children running into the street from behind a line of trees just to retrieve a ball. When I am on that kind of street, I tend to drive slower and be more attentive. In newer areas where there are no boulevard trees, it is quite easy to see children in a yard a half block or so away and be prepared for the same event. I suppose arguments for either scenario could be made, but I still like the trees.

    2. When I am on that kind of street, I tend to drive slower and be more attentive.

      I think you hit the nail on the head, there, John. Narrower streets — and streets where you know you can’t see everything you must expect — make drivers behave more safely. It is in a strict sense less efficient, but that has not even been a goal in recent years for residential streets. Hence the constant use of stop signs, winding streets, and dead-ends to control traffic and speed. Trees and controlling width also slow traffic and are more sustainable (in the planning sense) than those other measures.

  16. Leaders,

    It has come to my attention the tree removal has started on Linden Street. You need to put a stop to this project immediately. You have no support on this project from the residents of Northfield. There has been opposition to this project from the beginning and it is my understanding that Charles Umbanhowar Junior, a respected scientist and professor at St. Olaf College, offered environmentally friendly alternatives to the design of the project and was ignored. You have heard from the residents of our street that we unanimously oppose this project. Stop it immediately.

    In talking with many of you, it is clear to me that you are not in support of this project and understand that it will drastically change the environment of the street. I wish that you would have had the courage to vote in opposition to the reconstruction project like Erica Zweifel did.

    Again, I extend an invitation to you to come and view what will happen on North Plum Street if the reconstruction project moves forward.

    You have the power to stop this project. Stop it immediately. Represent the residents of Northfield.

    Keep Northfield beautiful. Keep Northfield unique.

    Sincerely,
    David Wagner

  17. This is me admitting that despite a 60 foot tree falling on top of my mobile home in Texas and pinning me down for over an hour while the firemen tried to figure how to get me out from under that fallen trunk, that I am a tree hugger.

    This is mE keeping my mouth ShUt as to my personal opinion of the mayor and city council that were elected to SERVE the INTERESTS of the citizens that elected them. (Griff would have to censor me.)

    And this is a reminder to those elected to SERVE and REPRESENT the citizens that elected them:
    Terms in office end, you will have to run again in the not too distant future, if there’s one thing I have learned about my fellow citizens of Northfield, it’s that we have very loooooonnnnnngggggg memories.

    (In full disclosure, I live in Ganey’s ward at 3rd ..and Plum.)

  18. Hello,
    The more people we talk with about the process of the Plum St. project, the more I am surprised and disappointed that the opposition was not acknowledged along the way. Multiple people have mentioned that they did raise concern throughout the year and do not believe that their voices were heard considering the outcome.
    Please take the time now to consider the opposition to this project and re-assess the priorities of this plan. Once the trees are cut down they can not be replaced.
    It’s not too late.
    Thank you for your consideration.
    Jenny

  19. Jenny, part of the problem is there doesn’t seem to be any documentation of when the objections were raised, who raised them, what the objections were, and what the response was.

    Councilor Ganey wrote above:

    I was contacted by one resident of the affected street projects as the process unfolded. We talked and emailed several times. I wish I had heard from more residents of Plum Street. At the March 15th City Council meeting where the motion to approve the projects was debated and voted on, there were no comments from the public.

    Looking at the project site, there evidently were meetings, for example:

    October 1 letter to residents

    2nd Neighborhood meeting notice

    But is there documentation about the results of these meetings that Patrick Ganey and the other members of the Council could review? At this late date, it seems that you’d have to show the council that objections were raised and ignored.

  20. Jenny/David/Chris/Laura:

    There is a City Council meeting Tues night, May 17. I think you and as many Plum St residents as you can round up should show up for the meeting. See the agenda.

    Since there is not an agenda item related to the Plum St. trees, those who wanted to speak at open mic would do so just prior to the Regular Agenda, ie, just after the Consent Agenda, where it says:

    OPEN PUBLIC COMMENTS

    Persons may take one opportunity to address the council for three (3) minutes on a topic not on the agenda. No notification of the mayor is required. However, speakers are asked to complete a comment card. Persons wanting a response to a question must submit the question in writing to the recording secretary. Questions must include name, address and phone number.

    If you plan to have more than one person speak, I think it’s best to plan it ahead of time so that the speakers aren’t saying the same thing. It’s not against the rules but I think it’s more effective/less annoying.

    If there a number of residents who attend, one of the speakers can ask for a show of hands/people to stand as a way to show the Council that there’s significant support for one’s position.

    And of course, be respectful. It’s okay to be angry/show emotion but I think it diminishes your influence if that gets communicated in disrespectful ways toward either the council or the staff.

  21. Oy, it may be too late. I just read City Administrator Tim Madigan’s Friday Memo for May 13. It includes this update by Katy Gehler, Public Works Director/City Engineer:

    PUBLIC WORKS / ENGINEERING
    Linden, Plum and 2nd Street Reconstruction

    … Tree trimming and removals were completed on Linden Street on Friday. It is anticipated the subcontractor will move to Plum Street on Monday.

    So short of some kind of civil disobedience, eg, chaining yourselves to the trees, I’m not sure what could be done to stop the tree removal.

    But I think it would still be good to speak to the Council on Tuesday to let them know that the process was broken.

  22. I took photos of two homes on the west side of N. Linden St., (309 and 315) before and after the big (maple?) trees were cut down this week. I’ve added the 4 photos to the blog post above.

  23. You don’t need volunteer civil engineers to redesign the project. You need leaders who are willing to tell the staff to make the changes needed. Go to EDINA and drive around on their narrow residential streets with no curbs or gutters. (No all but many, and in the nicest area of town.)

    What this project needed was a decision to require all reconstruction to BURY power lines. All D style curbs should be removed and low swales put in place and the elimination of storm water except at some low spots. Drive-over curbs that allow for parking in the ditches when they are not filled with snow.

    What Northfield lacks is leadership. Why doesn’t the city council go door to door in the affected neighborhoods before making a decision? Why does the public have to monitor the city council in fear for what they may decide next? Why wouldn’t the engineering deparment not be required to put a notice on everybody’s door prior to their submitting a plan to the city?

    The entire process is flawed. The city council claims that nobody objected to not knowing anything. The fault lies with city staff and city council, and relying on engineers to make the decisions for us.

    1. Jane, one of the few benefits of traditional curbs is that they protect pedestrians, as it requires relative effort for most cars to hop a curb. Rolled curbs, such as those used in the Jefferson Park culs de sac or near townhomes, have all the flaws (need to move stormwater somewhere else), but not that real safety benefit. (Or maybe you’re talking about completely flat curbs, that simply exist to protect the pavement edge, but still allow water to flow into a ditch?)

      Edina is problematic for comparison, because so few of its streets have sidewalks, and for being a city mostly built in Minneapolis neighborhood-style, it’s pretty pedestrian-unfriendly. But I will say, while I strongly advocate for sidewalks on both sides on all fully developed streets, curb/gutter is not necessary for sidewalks. Just look at Nerstrand. You can have shallow ditches in the boulevard and culverts underneath where the sidewalk meets the street (and also underneath a carriage walk, if a homeowner desires one). As long as the engineer is careful that water will not collect where the sidewalk meets the street — and applicable ADA measures, like detectable warnings, are still used — I think a sidewalk can work just as well with ditches.

      There are other measures that could/should be taken to improve pedestrian environment, as well, like lower and more frequent street lights. Even full reconstructions rarely touch lighting — W 1st St and E 4th St both have the same ugly cobraheads, strung from the powerlines, that they had before.

  24. I live on West First Street where the infrastructure was replaced 2 years ago. We lost many mature maples on my side of the street because they were so damaged by years of trimming to protect the power lines, they were unattractive and unhealthy. There was no support on our portion of the street to bury the power lines. Too costly. The one adolescent mountain ash I had planted on my boulevard several years ago, which wasn’t removed, is now dying because, I believe, roots were damaged during construction. The new tree placement policy assured me it will be replaced.

    In our neighborhood, we have a succession of trees in people’s yards and on the boulevards- tall, scraggly conifers, middle aged oaks and maples, and a parade of young boulevard trees. It is sad to lose trees, either to reconstruction or disease. At the same time, I love planting new trees and watching them grow. The oaks I planted 15 years ago to replace the diseased elms are already some of the tallest in the neighborhood. Obviously, as an octogenarian I won’t see the new little crabapple tree mature that the city planted on my boulevard to replace the maple they removed. But I’ve enjoyed watching it come back to life each spring, having survived winter’s harshness.

    It isn’t just the street which will be replaced this summer- it is the utilities. In older neighborhoods like Linden and Plum streets, this is an important process. . Several months before the city began its work on our street, my neighbor’s ancient water line collapsed, flooding their basement and requiring replacement of the service between their house the the main line. While it cost me some $$ to have the service replaced as part of the infrastructure project, I have the security of knowing water and sewer will flow safely as long as I live here, and beyond.

    While I am sympathetic with the unhappiness of residents of streets affected by this summer’s infrastructure replacement, it probably is too late to change the design or save trees. As a community, we need to continue the discussion about curbs vs swales vs other solutions for protecting our river, the design of street lights, adequate street width and the other issues raised in this thread. We should insist that the council get involved.
    Maybe next year’s infrastructure projects will reflect some of the ideas here.

  25. There are streets in many towns and cities where parking is allowed on only one side. This would seem to eliminate some of the necessity of widening.

  26. “What Northfield lacks is leadership. Why doesn’t the city council go door to door in the affected neighborhoods before making a decision? Why does the public have to monitor the city council in fear for what they may decide next?” -Jane Moline

    Jane, I believe you have hit the proverbial nail on the head with this question. In fact I think you hit that nail so hard that it deserves it’s own subject blog!

    Griff, unitl you consider this new topic on it’s own, I submit for consideration:
    Our elected unrepresentatives will never change unless we make them do so, or elect a new mayor and entirely new to the job councilors. I understand this will take some time to actually accomplish an “infant” council and mayor, but it may well be worth the elections necessary to do so.

    In the meantime, what are they going to do about the Spring St & St Olaf Ave intersection on Heading from St Olaf onto Spring towards Greenvale Ave? While Spring does widen the turn onto Spring is dangerously narrow.
    Everyone knows this and slows down, if they’re sober…
    But the question remains,n’t this less than required in width also? So …Move them houses! After all, we have solid proof right here on LGN that resident desires have little to do with staff & city council decisions.

  27. I live on Linden St N. Between my husband and myself, we attended 3 city meetings, have received several letters in the mail, and had a personal meeting with the city on our property. I felt fully informed, and knew ahead of time precisely what trees on my boulevard were getting cut down. From the meetings, I knew that there were individuals on Plum Street who were unhappy. If I am remembering correctly, the city told those residents that while they would like to see the trees saved, in all likelihood, they would be cut down. Personally, I feel like the city did a find job alerting us to what was on the horizon. On the other hand, I would say there did not seem to be a lot of interest in compromising.

  28. As a former resident of Plum Street, I am saddened to hear the beautiful, old trees are in danger. It is definitely evident the current Plum Street residents do not want any part of losing this unique aspect of life in Northfield. Yesterday, I drove down my former street and paid particular attention to the trees in danger, and could not imagine life on Plum without them. I was so happy to see the construction hadn’t started yet; hopefully this is a positive signal.

    Please, don’t cut down these lovely trees. They should be treated as historical landmarks. As Northfield is a progressive, thoughtful community, hopefully the city leaders will hear the residents’ concerns and consider an alternative.

    To echo David’s comments: keep Northfield beautiful and unique. We have enough pavement.

  29. Someone on the Council added this issue as agenda item tonight and they took 30+ minutes to cover/discuss it. (I started watching the live stream a few minutes after it started so I didn’t catch the explanation of who/how it got added it. Anyone know?)

    City Engineer Katy Gehler went through the public hearing slides/presentation, two residents (I didn’t catch their names) of N. Plum St. plus Victor Summa spoke at open mic, and then Councilors Zweifel, Nakasian, Pownell and Ganey commented and asked questions.

    Zweifel restated her strong opposition to the project, and Ganey restated his qualified support (as he noted in his comments here). In the end, no one made a motion to stop the project so it’s proceeding as planned.

    I’ll link to the archived video as soon as KYMN makes it available.

  30. During the meeting council member Erica Zweifel pointed out that the process was set up to gather public comments and ignore them, for which she apologized. At the end of the portion of the meeting, that is exactly what the Mayor said–that they had set aside time to listen to the Plum Street residents but their vote was made and done.

    The city engineer had a Power Point to show how they had many meetings–but admitted they did not show the residents how their trees would be decimated until much later.

    In this process, the residents are usually most worried about the cost of the special assessment–and the engineering department seems to have done a good job of keeping the tree-murdering from discussions.

    As in many situations, a complacent public believes that the city is acting in the citizen’s best interest. This is most often a mistake. The city is acting in Xcel entergy’s best interest in allowing them to butcher the trees and by not getting Xcel to foot the bill for buried lines (which elimnate the need and expnese of tree trimmning, pole maintenance, and downed power lines in a storm.)

    If you listen to them meeting it is obvious that the city is sticking to their policies regardless of their proven inefficiency or public dissatisfaction.

    All you Plum street residents: Special Assessments are only valid if they increase your property value by the cost of the assessment–you already have a street (albeit in poor condition) and city sewer and water–the replacement will probably decrease your property value when they remove the trees on the entire block (look at the Linden ST before and after photos.) You can protest your assessment and refuse to pay them for destroying your home value. It is a tough process, but if enough of the neighborhood joined in, it would be expensive for the city to fight, also. Maybe then they will listen.

  31. My wife, son and I attended the meeting last night, along with Steve Ryan, another Plum resident. We appreciated the fact that the city council added this issue to the agenda and I feel that progress was made and good discussions were had. Unfortunately, it appears that this progress will not help us with our cause to save our trees. Hopefully future residents that are threatened by this type of devastation will benefit. The problem I have is that when the city sends out the notices of public meetings, they either did not know about the impact of tree removal or withheld the information to avoid conflict. I understand that with these huge reconstuction projects trees will be lost… but I don’t think the city explored all avenues to avoid such destruction. Sending someone out to paint the pink dots after the project is approved and assessed is extremely irresponsible, and then blaming people for not attending meetings when these impacts are not known is wrong.

    Some of the comments the City Council made last night… literally gave me goosebumps and I’ll paraphrase below.

    Council Member Zweifel continues to oppose the project for the same reasons the residents do. She is disappointed in the lack of flexibility and questioned the reasoning behind the 32′ standard in road width. She empathized and apologized to the residents in that our “sense of place” is being devestated.

    Council Member Nakasian made perhaps some of the most impactful comments of the night. She asked some tough questions in how the tree removals are determined – if there was a hard line or if the decision is based on a hunch. She also referred to Plum Street as the “dooms day corridor” and mentioned that some residents of Linden Street she encountered are literally in an “evident state of mourning and grief”.

    Council Member Ganey was empathetic as well of the damage being caused but defended the need to improve the infrastructure. He supports the Council’s decision, and says that once there is a vote it’s fair. Unfortunately there is a winner and loser and that’s part of democracy.

    It sounded like a few of the council members actually did come to Plum street and walk it and view the pink dots and tried to envision what it would look like. I believe these are the people that spoke up, and maybe there is part of them that wishes they had voted the other way.

    I will extend another invitation for the members to visit our street again during the tree removal process. I invite them to view it with me, in my front yard as they remove the three 40′ maples. They can stick around as my wife comes home from work and help me explain to her that this is not tree removal, it’s democracy.

  32. I think that it is nice that the leaders of Northfield took some time to talk about the proposed North Plum Street reconstruction project. However, I do not respect the decision to move forward with the deforestation of North Plum Street.

    Officials from the city would like everyone to believe the following things:

    1. The widening of the road has nothing to do with the removal of the trees. This is not true. The widening of the road has everything to do with where the city needs to dig to put in the curb and the new sewer. By widening the road one foot on both sides, the digging will have to take place much closer to the base of the trees, which could potentially damage the roots. The widening of the road also means that the power lines will be moved back one foot, which impacts how Xcel will trim the trees. The road should not be widened.

    2. There was clear communication from the city regarding the potential environmental impact of the project. This is not true. The meetings were announced, but there was no written documentation from Katy Gehler explaining that the removal of mature trees was a part of the process. If the city can figure out exactly how much to assess each property owner, I think that there is a responsibility to inform property owners about major changes to their property. The city intentionally obfuscated the details of the project.

    3. No one attended the meetings. This is not true. Talking with neighbors on the street, it is clear that there were people in attendance who voiced their opposition. Their voices were ignored.

    4. It is too late to stop the project. This is not true. The leaders of the city fatalistically announced that the vote has taken place and nothing can be changed. The trees are still standing. Put the project on hold. Talk with the residents of North Plum Street. Cancel the contract. Keep the street beautiful.

    5. Katy’s deforestation design for the street is the only appropriate way of updating infrastructure. This can’t be true. It is 2011. The green movement is alive and well. I find it incredibly hard to believe that there are not more environmentally friendly ways of updating infrastructure. The city should find engineers who value the environment or send Katy back for continuing education classes to learn how to do more environmentally friendly work.

    6. The removal of trees will not have a negative impact on the value of the homes on the street. This is absolutely not true. The property value of the homes on the street will drop the minute every mature tree on the street is removed.

    7. The mayor and council did not understand the full ramifications of the project when they voted to approve the project. This is not true. Erica Zweifel had the courage to oppose the project throughout the process because she understood what would be lost if the reconstruction project moved forward.

    My simple and sincere question to the leaders of the city is this: Why are you moving forward with this project? Who are you appeasing by moving forward with this project? The residents of the street have submitted a petition to you opposing the reconstruction project. You have virtually no support for this project. Why are you choosing not to listen to the residents of the street?

    This is not progressive. This is not collaborative. This is not environmental friendly. This is not Northfield.

    Again, I invite the mayor and the city council members (for the fourth time) to walk the street with me tonight to talk with the residents of the street. We can go door to door and you can hear first hand from the residents how this project will change our street. Meet under the 100 year old black walnut in our front yard at 6:00?

    Keep Northfield beautiful. Keep Northfield unique.

    Sincerely,
    David Wagner

  33. As a Northfield Native and resident, I would like to contribute to the conversation on Plum Street. I’m impressed by this great example of respectful and thoughtful civic engagement.

    I’m hopeful that the city officials of Northfield will hear the pleas of their residents and re-think their plan to eliminate the trees that have been lining our streets and shading our brows long before we were around.

    Let’s think of the environmental implications as well as the messages that we are sending all the young people that live on Plum and around Northfield. Our natural resources are not dispensable, and it’s the abundance of greenery that makes Northfield unique.

    Like David stated above, the Green movement is very much alive, and I hope that we can all put a little more thought into how we can incorporate mother nature into our building plans as opposed to razing her out of our way.

  34. I just added a one-minute video of the trees of N. Plum St. (pre-reconstruction) heading north between St. Olaf Ave. and Greenvale Ave. My apologies for the shakiness. I was holding the camera with one hand while driving. See the blog post above.

    1. I rode by bike down the street yesterday. It looked like more than half of the large trees in the boulevard were marked with the yellow dot.

  35. Erica took Dave up on his offer to meet under the tree this evening— thank you. (and thanks to Griff for sending the video for others who have not seen the trees) It was great to hear her perspective… someone who clearly cares deeply about Northfield and her work on the Council. It was helpful to hear about the reality of having to choose the lowest bid for the project and the reality of the lowest bid oftentimes bringing in the biggest equipment which may be fine for the project, but deadly for the trees. Continuing conversation on our block (with city staff) brings up various alternatives for how this project might move forward with attention to the outcome of each individual tree. It sounds like there are indeed ways to do this project that could be more environmentally friendly, perhaps still using the lowest bidding company.

    Please consider this plea: with the Plum St. project not scheduled to begin until mid-July, please hold off on taking down the trees. There is no advantage to cutting down trees on Monday if road work does not begin until mid-July. Perhaps within the month a viable compromise could be reached that might lead to the ultimate goals of improving the infrastructure, while aligning with the intentions of the city council, utilizing the experience of the city staff, listening to the residents of Plum St., and preserving as many of the trees as possible. Thank you.

  36. Nfld News article posted at 10 pm: Talk comes too late for trees

    Trees within four feet of the project will be impacted, Gehler said in November. An estimated 50 percent of those will survive the road work.

    City maps show 12 trees will be removed during construction. Two are ash trees, which are susceptible to emerald ash borer, an invasive species known to be in Ramsey County. Another 24 ash trees may also be removed, while the survival of 132 trees is construction dependent.

    Um, 132 trees?

    Accompany photo shows that some trees were cut down today. Can anyone from Plum verify this?

  37. On Monday morning we will begin to lose our neighborhood. This loss is irreplaceable. It is evident that the process is flawed. It is disheartening to learn there are alternatives to the process that would minimize the impact, the devastation to our neighborhood, but are not being considered due to decisions already made. DELAY THE TREE REMOVAL START DATE AND WORK TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE TO LOOKING AT EACH TREE WITH CARE.

  38. I’m 99% sure that the picture in the Northfield News article is of trees that were cut down on Linden.

  39. Right Nate… That’s not Plum Street. Maybe they put that picture up for effect? I’m not sure about some of stats on Nfld News either… All i know is that 31 trees are slated to be removed starting Monday. For now though, trees still stand on Plum.

  40. The slaughter has begun… A few trees removed on the corner of St. Olaf and Plum and it already drastically changed the landscape.

  41. Nfld Patch: VIDEO: Trees Come Down on Plum Street

    A walk down Plum Street North between St. Olaf and Greenvale avenues on Monday was a tale of two messages.

    On one hand, several decades-old trees were cloaked in written pleas from residents asking for them to be saved. At the same time, chainsaws roared at one end of the block as the first trees were brought down to make way for a street reconstruction project.

  42. Randy Trebelhorn has a letter to the editor in the Wed. Nfld News: Crossing the line between city and its residents

    But at what point is the line crossed and law abiding property owner are reduced to grovel with hat-in-hands before the unquestionable sovereignty of any level of government to gain entitlement to that which is essentially theirs in the first place?

    In the balance of power between taxpayer and public servant, the essence of democracy mandates processes of scrutiny, review and appeal behind every decision. Who permits who to do what? In the impending battle of wills, if the ones funding it all aren’t ultimately satisfied, as a collective of course, something is seriously amiss. Compromise is inevitable, but on whose side ought we err?

  43. Sadly, the removal of mature trees on North Plum Street continues today, drastically altering our sense of place. Mayor Mary declined my final offer to come to the street to see the ramifications of the project and talk with the residents.

    I don’t believe that this is what progress has to look like. I don’t believe that this is what responsible representative government should look like. Take a walk down North Plum Street. If you agree that this is not what progress or environmentally responsible design looks like, I urge you to call the leaders of the city to share your thoughts.

    Contact information for all city officials is located at: http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/government/citycouncil

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