John F. Schaffner
There seems to be a prevailing opinion among developers and business owners that trees are just nuisances that simply get in their way. But why? Trees are considered to be “attractive,” which, by definition, means they attract attention. To me, that means they are an amenity for businesses, not a nuisance.
And, we all know that trees are a passion with most residents in a community.
If residents have a strong appreciation for trees and these residents shop and make purchases, one might assume these residents would prefer to do their shopping in an environment made more attractive than the common strip center by the planting of trees.
But, what typically happens is that developers—whether building large commercial properties or simply single-family homes—believe it is more expedient to clear-cut the land and worry about paying fines or planting new trees (almost always much less mature) after the construction is finished.
A whole flock of resident activists has come out of the woods in protest of these activities all across the metro Atlanta area.
A slightly different twist on the theme took place along Dresden Drive recently and the results are the same: the residents are up in arms and DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader is considering charges of criminal vandalism to county property.
The nighttime crowd at Haven restaurant on Saturday, June 6, saw a sidewalk in front of the Park Village commercial building that was lined with beautiful oak trees. When patrons arrived the next morning for Haven’s Sunday brunch, almost all the trees were gone and they listened to chain saws removing the few remaining oaks.
Rajen Sheth, managing director of Pinnacle Real Estate Partners that owns the commercial building, had the trees removed early on Sunday morning, when no one would be around to stop the cutting. The clear-cutting of these 17 “specimen” oak trees, Sheth claims, was necessary because they were hiding the retail spaces on the ground floor from street traffic, causing him to lose tenants and keeping him from gaining new tenants.
There are several problems with what he did. First and foremost is that the trees were not on his property, but on the county right-of-way. He had no right to touch those trees and, thus, Commissioner Rader is exploring criminal vandalism charges—17 counts.
Second, he had asked the county arborist three times to issue a permit for cutting some of the trees and three times he was told he was not allowed to remove any trees. But he decided to do it anyway and pay possible damages later.
Sheth said the decision to cut down the 17 oaks in front of Park Village was “difficult and painful.” It should be far more painful than he ever expected.
It has been estimated that just to replace the 10-inch diameter trees would cost about $60,000. Pinnacle Real Estate Properties should at very least pay those charges. And, there should be fines for the act of illegally cutting down trees that are on county property.
There needs to be a strong, painful message sent.