WAHOO – A discussion about trees has taken root in Wahoo, and the city wants to grow information before making any decisions.
The discussion about having trees in the downtown right-of-way came before the City Council at its meeting July 11. The topic has been in the coffee shop and in various other meetings recently, since Wahoo State Bank planted a tree on the street bump out next to its building in downtown Wahoo.
But, Wahoo Administrator Melissa Harrell pointed out at the start of the discussion last week that the city had been talking about trees in city right-of-way since earlier this year.
Several department heads talked over the pros and cons of having trees in the downtown area. She said that discussion was the start of a process, with the intention that the discussion be eventually brought to the city council’s table.
Opinions have varied on if trees should or should not be allowed in downtown.
“I’ve had several calls from both sides,” Mayor Jerry Johnson said.
But, the decision does not appear to be a simple yes or no to trees.
For example, Harrell said the city’s municipal code for such safety issues as sight triangles at intersections would have to be amended if trees were allowed. By code now, tree planting needs to be done through a permit process.
Those first discussions by city officials also involved such topics as the types of trees that could be suitable for the intersections.
Wahoo Zoning Administrator Travis Beavers said the Wahoo Planning Commission has also discussed trees at its meeting. He said there were concerns voiced about tree root structure and if it could damage underground utility lines.
Those were the types of questions that still needed to be answered.
Wahoo State Bank President Greg Hohl also addressed the council. He said he planted the tree in the bump out next to his business because he wanted that corner to look nice and felt trees could add to the look of the downtown area.
“We wanted to be proactive, a change agent,” Hohl said.
Hohl added the tree was not planted without research being done first and it should be suitable for the downtown area.
He admitted that the permit and proper procedures should have been followed prior to its planting, but he said he wanted to have it in before the bank’s grand re-opening.
Hohl also pointed out that he was in favor of planting trees when the bump outs and other downtown design features were developed in 1989.
“You see more progressive communities putting ones in,” he said.
Wahoo Resident Tom Svoboda served on the city council during that earlier downtown redevelopment planning and said that trees had been originally drawn into the landscape design.
He too was still in favor of trees.
“There should not be one negative. It should be a positive for Wahoo,” he said.
He cited cities, like Ashland, Nebraska City and Falls City, that do have trees planted in their downtowns.
City Councilman Carl Warford said it wasn’t that he was against trees in the downtown area, but there were still a lot of questions dangling. He said more research was needed before a decision could be made and all concerns had to be taken into consideration.
“At the end of the day, that is city property,” he stated.
City staff was directed to keep discussing and researching the topic.
For right now, Johnson said Wahoo State Bank will not be asked to take the tree down. He said it didn’t make sense to enforce current code, if there was a possibility it might be changed.