2008-01-19 / News

Buckeye Lake looking at possible tree policy

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE- The Buckeye Lake Village Council won't be stumped. Tree issues dominated council's agenda Monday night, including discussion of a village tree policy to determine who is responsible for overhanging and loose branches, and the like.

Buckeye Lake Planning Commission member Clayton Carroll told council that Lisa Bowers, ODNR Regional Urban Forester, gave a presentation to the planning commission. She mentioned that ODOT Gateway Grants are available for villages to beautify community entrances along state routes (such as Buckeye Lake's Ohio 79 entrances) and villages may pass tree ordinances to ensure that developers adequately replace any trees removed for construction projects. "There are quite an array of things that can be done," said Carroll.

He added that Bowers told the planning commission villages may apply to become a "Tree City USA." Steve Nix, of About. com, wrote that becoming a Tree City USA has several advantages. The program helps many communities develop an organized approach to city tree management, it helps the community locate professionals to educate city managers about urban tree care, and it helps communities avoid problems associated with poorly managed and aging trees.

According to an ODNR release, Tree City USA communities must meet a list of criteria, including establishing a tree board or department to carry out a tree care program; enacting and enforcing a community tree ordinance to provide direction; funding the community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita; and celebrating Arbor Day with a community ceremony-including planting a few trees-and a mayoral proclamation.

Carroll suggested that Bowers give a similar presentation to council.

In a related matter, Mayor Frank Foster, during his mayor's report, responded to a Beacon Letter to the Editor in the Jan. 12 edition, which criticizes the village for spending village money to remove a tree from private property.

"Why would the village spend money they don't have to cut down a tree that doesn't even belong to them?" the letter asks. Council President Charlene Hayden and Police Chief Ron Small authorized the removal.

"It was a whopping $125," said Foster Monday night. He said the tree presented an "immediate hazard" to citizens. He added, "I think the village acted in an entirely appropriate way." Foster said the village may have some legal liability if village officials are informed that a tree poses a threat from falling branches or falling over, does nothing about it, and then someone is injured. He said the village was informed of the tree's dangers.

Hayden said Monday night that there are many trees along narrow village streets that need to be trimmed back so they don't interfere with emergency vehicles and large trucks using the street. She said the village should implement an officialtree policy, which defineswho's responsible for which trees, and when.

In other council news:

• Council will meet Tuesday, Feb. 4, 6 p.m. in the Village Hall to discuss an agreement with the Village of Millersport to provide public water to the Village of Buckeye Lake. Foster said he won't ask council to approve a water contract during the meeting, but the Millersport Board of Public Affairs should have an agreement ready for the Buckeye Lake Council to review by the Feb. 4 meeting.

Foster said the village has paid an outstanding loan to the Ohio Water Development Authority for a water study from 1993, it paid an outstanding loan to National City Bank for water related issues, and it paid much of what it owes to ME Companies, which is designing a public water system for the village. All of these debts were standing in the way of progress on the water sys tem, said Foster, but now, "we're in a position to move quickly with Millersport."

• Council appointed Stacie McCloud, Pam Reed, and Rondia Sexton to the village planning commission. Foster appointed Brian Owens. The planning commission now has seven members since passage of a village charter amendment in November. Mc- Cloud was also appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission.

There were no changes to council for 2008. Council members unanimously reappointed Hayden as council president, and all council members remained on their respective committees. Hayden said she appreciated the unanimous support, but suggested that she would not run for another council term when her current term expires in two years. "After two more years you can kiss me goodbye," she said. "I want to see this water thing through."

• Buckeye Lake Planning Commission Chair Karen Cookston said she expects to have a report by the end of February determining whether a land feature on the site of the Residences at Maple Bay subdivision is actually an ancient Native- American "solstice" structure, which identifies the first day of winter.

• Council member Shelly Small said vehicles coming from Cranberry Bay are zooming down East Street mornings and she worries they will hit children waiting for the school bus. "It's terrible," she said. "They're going to hit somebody." Council members said they are aware of who's speeding and the street will be monitored.

• Foster said the village will look into all flooding issues on Buckeye Lake Village streets. Sexton said during a previous meeting that Central Ave. is having flooding issues.

• Foster mentioned that cash advance business is interested in locating in Buckeye Lake. Although many municipalities are actively trying to keep these businesses out of their communities, Buckeye Lake Village has nothing in its ordinances that could be used to deny the cash advance company from operating within the village. "We had no grounds at the time of application for denying it," he said.

• Monday night was the first council meeting for 2008, and council members Jeryne Peterson, Drew Bourne, Hilde Hildebrandt, and Donna Thompson were sworn into officeby Foster. All four members were re-elected to council in November. Technically, Hayden, who also ran, was not re-elected to council in November, but she continues to serve on council because she was appointed to former council member John Cortez' position, whose term still has two years. Cortez was dismissed from council in August for missing eight meetings within a year. He is currently a fugitive from justice and is wanted by the Licking County Sheriff's Department for 23 counts of sexual misconduct with minors, one count of providing illegal substances to minors, and one felonious weapons charge.

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