Sunday, August 05, 2001

Developers remove trees from wetlands

The Associated Press

        AURORA, Ohio — A development company building a mall near this northeast Ohio city ignored a state order barring the destruction of wetlands by clearing 100 trees, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials said.

        Heritage Development Co., the Moreland Hills company building a 700,000-square-foot mall on a 128-acre tract across from Six Flags Worlds of Adventure, cut about eight acres of mature-growth trees from wetlands just days after the state issued the protection order, said Kera Allison, an Ohio EPA spokeswoman.

        “We've never had a developer, after receiving notice of a denial, go out and cut down trees in wetlands,” she said.

        No charges have been filed against Heritage officials, but the Ohio EPA and Attorney General Betty Montgomery's office say an investigation is under way. Neither would say what charges the company could face.

        Heritage officials contend their application before the Ohio EPA to allow the company to dredge and mitigate the wetlands did not cover trees.

        “There is no tree ordinance that precludes us from cutting the trees down, so we cut the trees down,” said John McGill, Heritage's president. “It's not a destruction of wetlands. Wetland is wet land. L-A-N-D, not trees.”

        Heritage had asked the Ohio EPA to allow it to fill just over 7 of the 32 acres of wetlands on the property for parking and buildings.

        The Ohio EPA denied that request on June 26, saying that nearly 5 of those 7 acres included some of the state's highest-quality wetlands.

        Between July 26 and Tuesday, the state says that Heritage cleared several acres of those high-quality wetlands.


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