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Monday, December 7, 2009

Save the Trees! Madison Sidewalk Rule Threatens Catherine Ave. Firs

Tucked away in tonight's Madison City Commission agenda packet (page 42 of the PDF), after all the alcohol license requests, a letter from Arthur and June Gwynne of 721 North Catherine Avenue, seeking relief from deforestation:

We recently received notification of Resolution of Necessity #2730. Our main concern is the welfare and preservation of 6 magnificent, 30 ft. plus, fir trees that would perish in accordance with requirements of SDCL 9-46-3.

We have spent over $200.00 per year to have these trees treated to resist damaging diseases and pestilence. Therefore, we are proposing a concession that would satisfy the "Resolution of necessity", and save 4 of the 6 trees in question.

We would appreciate an opportunity to have a City Representative visit us in order for us to present our "Tree Saving Plan." [Arthur and June Gwynne, letter to Madison Sidewalk Committee, 2009.12.02]

The Gwynnes sound pretty level-headed in this letter. They're even willing to compromise, offering a plan that would still sacrifice two trees. But heck, I'd rather keep all six. Catherine Ave. is a nice quiet street. If it keeps that shade and windbreak there, let's run that sidewalk right along the curb, or just skip it all together.

The Gwynnes aren't the only unhappy residents facing sidewalk expense. See complaining missives from Mr. Brad Gilbert of 722 N. West Ave., on page 46 of the agenda packet, as well as K. Hein, Marlene Oldre (who would lose a crab tree and a safety rail), Ed Swanson (who thinks the city should put a sidewalk along the highway east from the Dairy Queen first), Roger Southmayd, Tom Halverson (who expresses the grouchiness of a lot of Madisonites when he says, "I assume this 'discussion & review' process is a mere formality and the decision has already been made"), and Omar El-Gayar.


  1. Sounds like a job for a neighborhood resident association. Find a common ground with the residents. Weed out the extremes and start the process of going through the system with a logical, level headed approach.

  2. The problem is that years ago, nobody had to invest in sidewalks under the old building permit system if the street on one side of their home was unpaved. If it was already paved, it required sidewalk, but if it was gravel, no sidewalk needed until it was developed.

    Guess what. Trees were planted, they all grew, the streets eventually were blacktopped, and for decades the city didn't take the initiative to get those sidewalks installed.

    Hopefully, the City now requires all street-sides of a building lot have sidewalk in conjunction with a building permit application, regardless of whether there is a finished street on one side or not.

    The City has been pretty flexible in an effort to protect trees where possible in the past three years, and they should.

  3. I can definitely see that happening. But now you have half the town saving the trees and half the town installing sidewalks, creating disharmony in the neighborhood.

    Planners and residents should be researching other cities to see if unique and innovative ideas were installed.

    Maybe switch to pavers when the sidewalk nears a tree and split the walkway around the tree. Then when the tree dies naturally, the pavers can be removed and the sidewalk can be installed. This would make a park like appearance and give curb appeal.

    Are the costs of the sidewalks being placed on the homeowner?

    Right before we organized the Whittier Resident Association our sidewalks were tagged for repair. This was in the finishing stages so we have discussed this but don't have a finalized plan. We would organize a cement pouring party, so that forms could be installed, people could use their tools and everyones cement would come in one load. We still need to work out how to involve businesses because some of our residents are in the industry. So right now its all talk, but we have something to go on if this issue comes up again. For some people the city picks the worst time for a homeowner to incur costs.

  4. Paving stone paths, a neighbrly cement pouring party -- those are great community-building ideas, April! Too bad the city commission requires the work be done by licensed contractors.

  5. FYI: I talked to the man on the corner (D.W.) today. The city would have let him do his own sidewalks, so although the ordinance doesn't have a provision for homeowners doing their own work, it's worth talking to the city engineer.

  6. In SF we have to have a licensed contractor do the approach, curb and gutter. The walks we can do on our own.

    It would be nice if we could find a contractor that would be willing to work with volunteers. A business still gets paid work, residents jump in on the deal. Especially the ones who are dragging their feet for good reason or not so good reasons.


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