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Webster Groves Addresses Tree Bill Concerns

Residents came out in large numbers Tuesday night to the Webster Groves City Council meeting to voice their opinions on the new ordinance regulating tree preservation in the community.

An ordinance that would establish new requirements for the preservation, protection, maintenance and removal of trees during construction was the subject of much debate at the Tuesday night regular meeting of the Webster Groves City Council.

Bill 8719 is an addition to a 2004 ordinance that required commercial construction projects to take special care of tress on their property. The new Bill will require certain residential restrictions as well.

Single and double-family properties are exempt from most provisions, but new residents to Webster Groves will have to meet specific guidelines on any future construction or development projects.

A tree preservation plan will be required for new construction projects. Builders and contractors will have to provide plans for the protection or removal and replacement of any trees on their property, as well as any tree within 10 feet of the construction project.

"I find this bill puntitive and subjective," said Tom Sepee, Webster Groves resident and former contractor. "This is going to put a much larger amount of work on the backs of people trying to do simple work on private property."

One portion of the bill requires a certified arborist to be on-site for any work necessitating a tree preservation plan. As several residents pointed out, Webster Groves does not currently employ an arborist and some contracted tree-trimming businesses in the district do not have arborists on staff. These businesses will no longer to be qualified to work within the city if the ordinance passes unchanged.

Other citizens, like Bill Rupert, of Kirkwood, called the ordinance a victory. "As a resident of Kirkwood, I'm envious, and I'd like to applaud the efforts you're taking to preserve your assests in the form of trees." Rupert, a member of the Urban Forestry Commission in Kirkwood, wanted to see similar measures adopted in his city as well.

"We care greatly for our trees; this is going to protect them," Rupert said.

Residents like Jim Caesar didn't share the same views.

"Certified arborists? Why are we certifying this job through the city? We care a lot about our children, but we don't certify our parents," Caesar said.

Council indicated during a work session before the regular meeting that at least one amendment was planned for the bill. One planned amendment would remove the requirement of an on-site arborist.

Of the numerous residents that addressed the council, many expressed the same concern: the expansion of the 2004 provision to include residential property.

"First, in 2004, you passed this and said you wouldn't touch residential," said Rick Ederleen, of Webster Groves. "Now, you're saying residential, but with exceptions. I just don't like the trend here. You're slowly telling people what they have to do with their personal property, and it isn't right."

The bill passed a second reading, with council planning on taking further action in amending certain language before the next meeting and final reading.

In other council news:

  • Council member Anne Tolan also proposed council reconsider a vote on bill 8717. The ordinance was designed to permit Sullins Gas & Wash to sell alcohol on the premises. The . The vote will be reconsidered and a new public hearing on the matter will take place at the next city council meeting. Council will vote on the measure again at that time.
  • Council granted a first and second reading to bill 8720, approving Koch Development for the construction of a CVS Pharmacy in the Yorkshire Shopping Center at Watson and Laclede Station Roads. The CVS will feature a drive-thru pharmacy.
  • Council also approved third readings for extended patio seating for Cafe Nura hooka lounge and coffee shop at 117 E. Lockwood Ave.

The next Webster Groves City Council meeting will take place on June 21 at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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