WAHOO – A discussion about trees in downtown Wahoo ended with a vote last week to maintain and enforce the current regulations.
The Wahoo City Council voted 5-1 during its Aug. 8 meeting to maintain the current regulations that says no trees are to be planted in city right of way bump outs in downtown Wahoo.
Councilman Greg Kavan, who made the motion for status quo, said he had nothing against trees in general.
“I like trees, but maintenance down the road could be a problem,” he said. “I am looking at the future.”
Councilman Carl Warford said he too saw the benefit of trees in a community, But like Kavan, he had some concerns about types and sizes of trees, as well as what the current bump outs could accommodate.
Councilman Patrick Nagle also had concerns about what the root structure of trees would do to nearby sidewalks and utility infrastructure, such as storm sewer and water mains.
Those problems may not be immediate, but Nagle said might have to be addressed by future generations.
“The generation that is now in elementary school will have to deal with those,” he added.
Mayor Jerry Johnson reported that the city had contacted a community forester to come and look at the downtown area. Grahm Herbst with the Nebraska Forest Service recently inspected the bump outs, including the one where a noncompliant tree was recently planted by Wahoo State Bank.
Johnson said Herbst’s report was that the bump outs might be able to accommodate trees, but not as they currently exist.
“The soil needs to be replaced,” Johnson said.
Herbst’s opinion was that there were too many rocks and the soil bed needed to be deeper. The surface area also needs to be larger.
Johnson said the suggestion was to take out the red bricks that currently line the bump outs on the corners. But that may be a problem, he added, because it is believed there is a layer of concrete below the brick.
Although the bump outs are city property, there was discussion about who should be taking care of them. Johnson said, if the city pursued trees, he didn’t believe it should be the responsibility of the city to plant and take care of them.
He said he has been in contact with the Greater Wahoo Development Foundation and the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce to see what interest or funding existed.
He reported he found interest both for and against trees, but no definite funding source.
Another option suggested was to create a downtown district in which business owners could have input into improvement decisions and also be assessed for related projects.
Wahoo State Bank President Greg Hohl was at the council’s meeting and spoke in favor of not only keeping his tree in place, but also allowing them on other corners.
“We feel strongly it would be a benefit to downtown,” he said.
Wahoo Resident Eric Gottschalk said other communities do have trees in their downtowns.
“The benefits far exceed any concerns,” he added.
Councilwoman Karen Boop, who was the lone no vote to keep and enforce the current regulations agreed.
She said she saw trees as
an investment in the community.
Councilman Mike Lawver said the entire conversation of downtown improvement was a good one to have, but putting together a project needed to go through the right process. Like most things in government, he said developing a solid improvement plan could take several years.
“I am not against discussing it. But right now, we have rules,” Lawver said.
After the vote, the mayor was directed to contact the bank about abating the tree that was planted this summer in violation of city regulations and also check to see if there were other violations that existed in the downtown area.