Tree cutting causes controversy

Saturday , July 06, 2013 - 12:07 AM

Mikayla Beyer

OGDEN — Providing housing for the elderly may be a worthy investment for the community, but to the residents who occupy a neighborhood on Polk Avenue in Ogden, the changes that go along with it may be a little too much.

The area is home to a construction site where a dilapidated building formerly stood. Now, it is being made into an elderly-housing facility by ICO Construction with approval from Ogden city. Part of the process of making it meet Americans With Disabilities Act standards, however, involved cutting down trees that have been growing in the community for more than 50 years, angering residents who considered them valuable.

“Those trees have been there since I was a little tyke. It’s been a quiet, good neighborhood. It was challenging when they suddenly cut down those trees and left that space open. It doesn’t seem like a good idea,” resident Jim Larkin said.

Larkin and other residents speculated on whether the construction workers had obtained a permit to cut down the trees, but Ogden’s development services manager, Greg Scothern, said the city has been behind the project before it began.

“Everything that they are doing up there is permitted. It went through a rigorous process. There is nothing that the construction company up there has been doing out of the norm,” Scothern said.

According to Scothern and ICO Construction’s superintendent, Matt Vankomen, the decision to cut down the trees was motivated by safety concerns. The location has a downward slope that would make the new building unsafe under ADA regulations if the trees stayed entirely intact. The company would have had to cut vital roots from the trees to leave them standing. Without the roots, the trees would have been weaker and more vulnerable to wind and harsh weather, so cutting them down was the only option to maintain the safety of the neighborhood.

“The city actually made the final decisions on this. I have not been confronted by any of the residents. I am the builder, and I need to build to the city’s standards. We’ve been working with them, and the city made the decision to remove the roots, since they were worried that the wind would blow the trees over if they had weak roots,” Vankomen said.

The property has undergone several changes over the years. It used to be part of the site of St. Benedict’s Hospital, which in recent years has been used as subsidized housing. On the section where the trees were, a run-down building had stood. The project to build an elderly people’s home on the site began approximately 18 months ago.

Larkin is not happy with the decision to cut down the trees.

“This has been a long project. It just keeps getting bigger and longer. Now, instead of those trees, I’m just going to be facing that building for a long time,” Larkin said.

Dino Salazar, owner of A & C Tree Service, has also been part of the project, and he believes the city will try to be considerate of the residents’ concerns.

“The city has been here to talk to us. They say they are going to put in trees to replace those eventually, just not in the same spot because of the sidewalk,” Salazar said.

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