City rejects country club's plan to remove 197 trees
Concerns involve two specific clusters of trees and the lack of immediate mitigation efforts
City planners have rejected the initial version of a controversial proposal to remove nearly 200 trees from the Oswego Lake Country Club golf course.
Senior planner Jessica Nomanoglu told The Review on Friday that the clubs permit application which called for the removal of 197 trees, plus 56 more that are considered "invasive" was denied due to a lack of information about several specific trees slated for removal, as well as concerns about the clubs reluctance to elaborate on plans to mitigate the removals.
Arborist Terry Flanagan originally submitted the country club's request for a Type II tree-removal permit on Dec. 11. The proposal generated considerable pushback from neighbors in the surrounding North Shore and Uplands neighborhoods, who argued that such a large-scale removal wasn't justifiable and required careful scrutiny.
Flanagan told The Review on Monday that the city's decision was unexpected but understandable. He said that the country club had wanted to conduct the removal first before making a new assessment for replanting.
"Given the comments from the community, they wanted to see more details on where we were going to plant trees," Flanagan said. "We had planned all along to plant trees, just not as many as were coming out."
Nomanuglu said it would be up to the country club to draw up new plans to try to incorporate a higher level of mitigation, but that the city would be willing to compromise for some of the trees.
Weve asked them to submit a mitigation plan that maximizes the number of trees they can replant on the site, she said. And then its possible they could pay a fee in lieu of whatever they cant feasibly locate on the site.
On Dec. 21, the clubs general manager, Michael Carbiener, explained the plans in detail at a meeting with several neighborhood association representatives. Members of the city's volunteer Tree Code Committee also attended the meeting, which partially tempered the criticism. But not everyone was convinced, and Nomanoglu told The Review last week that the city received a large volume of messages about the removal during its two-week evaluation period.
The citys contract arborist, Morgan Holan, also toured the course and reviewed the removal plans created by Flanagan, an arborist for Teragan & Associates Inc. who was hired by the country club. The planning department reached its decision after meeting with Holan, Nomanoglu said.
We went over it this week to take a look at it and see if we could make a decision based on what they gave us, Nomanoglu told The Review. And what we found is that we do need some additional information before we will issue a staff decision.
According to Nomanoglu, city planners are especially concerned about a group of incense cedars near the 18th hole of the golf course and a cluster of Sequoias near the practice area. In both cases, the city found that the club failed to provide enough information about why removal of the trees was necessary.
The country club's mitigation plans also worried city officials, Nomanoglu said. The club's plans did not call for the immediate replanting of any new trees to replace the ones being taken out, she said. Instead, the club intended to pay a $125 fine for each tree removed, which the city said was unacceptable.
The criteria require that we have to make a determination that its not feasible to replant on-site, and we cant make that determination because we think there are opportunities to replant on-site, Nomanoglu said. Probably not all of the trees, because, obviously, its a golf course you cant plant in the middle of a green or a driving range. But certainly there are opportunities to replant on the site.
Neighbors had expressed similar concerns during the comment period. North Shore Neighborhood Association chairwoman Shelley Lorenzen told The Review in an email that the mitigation plan was a major concern.
"The country club technically may be able to avoid mitigation and simply pay the very small fine for noncompliance with the Tree Code," said Lorenzen. "But the value of these trees far exceeds the fines for noncompliance."
Flanagan says the city gave the club two to three weeks to submit the additional information, but he thinks the revisions will be ready in one week.
"Given the comments from the community, I certainly understand where the city is coming from," he said.