Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Plants entangle Newport council

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — The greening of Newport is going to take some time, if discussion among city commission members Monday night over changes in a portion of the municipal code dealing with trees and shrubs was any indication.

        During a first reading of the ordinance amending the municipal code, commission ers questioned whether the city should force property owners to maintain grass, shrubs and/or trees on lawns or planting strips on city rights-of-way abutting the private property.

        “We have a number of homes in Newport that don't have any yard, and the owners don't have lawn mowers,” Commissioner Ken Rechtin said. “We're saying in this ordinance that we won't force anyone to plant trees, but we are putting in planting strips with grass between streets and sidewalks and requiring the property owners to maintain it. If we don't force people to put in trees, how can we force them to put in grass and cut it?”

        Commissioner Jan Knepshield agreed, pointing out the city was basically giving property owners no option as to the grass they would have to cut. “They'll have to cut grass they didn't have before, and if they don't we fine them,” he said.

        Mr. Rechtin, discussing the portion of the tree/shrub ordinance calling for a selection of desirable urban trees by the city's tree board, said he felt “this might be the beginning of the city dictat ing what people can do, what type of trees they are permitted to plant.”

        City Manager Phil Ciafardini pointed out that this has been part of the ordinance for some time. “You can't plant a tree in a public right-of-way without coming to the tree board for approval,” he said.

        Mr. Ciafardini said trees are not part of the city's street improvement process at this point, but as work is performed to replace sidewalks and curbs, a planting strip will be included in the work and planted with grass.

        New trees are already a part of the Monmouth Street streetscape project, with new paver-style sidewalks already installed in most blocks from Sixth Street to 11th Street. The locust trees that were planted some 15 years ago have been removed.

        “New trees were always part of the streetscape project,” Mr. Ciafardini said. “The tree board has already selected four types of trees to be planted in the tree wells along Monmouth. The property owners will be required to maintain the trees, as stated in the municipal code.”

        The locust trees removed from Monmouth Street before streetscape work began had caused sidewalk damage at some locations, and were basically near the end of their useful life as urban growth in any event, according to Mr. Ciafardini. The same life span will be true of the trees to be planted along Monmouth this spring.

        Mr. Knepshield asked how the city would eventually remove those trees without tearing up the paver sidewalks. Mr. Ciafardini said it would require very careful removal.

        “That means a lot of time and manpower to take those trees out in about 15 years, and a lot of expense,” Mr. Knepshield replied.

        The vote was 3-2 to approve the amendment on first reading, with Mr. Knepshield and Commissioner Jerry Peluso voting against.

        Commissioners unanimously approved a zoning change for the Newport Promenade commercial/residential development off I-471 on Wiedemann Hill.

        Commissioner Beth Fennell asked that reference to R-4 zoning, which covers condominiums and town houses, be deleted from the description of zones in the development because the developer, Neyer Properties, no longer plans to build condominiums and will build 52 single family homes.


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