City seeking advice on trees causing damage downtown

The city will seek outside advice on what to do about tree roots that are causing flooding and breaking up sidewalks on Shoppers Row.

Mayor Walter Jakeway put forth a motion at council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday that city staff prepare a report on a “physical solution” to city-owned trees and roots along Shoppers Row that are destroying underground utilities.

Jakeway said his motion was temporarily put on hold to allow the city to gather more information.

“Staff will be getting advice on Friday – we don’t want to cut the trees down because it will look like a logging site,” Jakeway said. “There’s another meeting with experts on this type of thing Friday.”

Jakeway said he hopes to see a report back from staff reflecting those discussions at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“To me, the trees are a problem and they’re not just in one area,” Jakeway said. “I understand about three or four particular trees are the problem.”

The problem was made public in November when Shoppers Row business owners Tricia Murphy and Michael Murphy wrote a letter to council complaining that their building, on the 900 block of Shoppers Row, often floods.

They said the roots of city-planted trees have grown under their building, pushed the grout out of the sewer line connection and have gotten into the sewer line, creating blockages which lead to flooding.

“We...ask that the city do something to remove their trees’ roots from under our building before serious damage occurs,” wrote the Murphys. “The current situation is intolerable and completely unfair to us and our very patient tenants.”

Jakeway first put forward his motion at a council meeting Dec. 4 asking city staff to come up with a solution in response to the letter, however, the matter was deferred until Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

“I wanted them (the Murphys) to be assured we were aware of it so I brought it up at council,” he said.

Jakeway said he would like to see the city cut down one-third of the trees now while at the same time planting new ones, then five years later cut down another third, giving the new trees time to grow.

But Jakeway said he knows he’s not the only one making decisions.

“I’m simplistic, I’d fix it,” he said. “But I’m not the dictator of the city. I’m just the mayor.”

Jakeway said the trees are also creating cracks in the brick sidewalks. Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, confirmed in a downtown street lighting report to council last month that the sidewalks are being impacted by tree roots and need to be repaired or replaced.

Jakeway said he would like to see the city take action before the spring, so new trees can be planted if need be and the ones that need to go can be cut down.

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