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Development near ShareIt Square costs trees

Neighbors around Sellwood’s well-known “Share-It Square” are experiencing a major landscape change.

The double lot on the northwest corner of S.E. 9th and Sherrett Street on which there formerly was a house and large garden, was purchased last summer by a developer, Everett Custom Homes.

In order to build two pre-designed townhouses at the site, crews first demolished the home, then set about removing several old trees there, including apple and pear trees, a 2.5-foot-diameter cedar tree, and a huge double-trunked grand fir nearly four feet in diameter that was estimated to be 150 years old.

by: RITA A. LEONARD - A last look at the hundred-and-fifty-year-old fir tree lost to Share-It Square development.Although neighbors had asked the developer to adjust building plans in order to preserve some of the trees, by late January all trees had been cut down. Some local residents believed that these trees could have been integrated into the architectural plans, since many were near the perimeter of the property – but legal mitigation for the trees’ removal is limited to merely replanting with two-inch-diameter replacements.

Share-It Square Co-founder Mark Lakeman, who lives nearby, assures that other small structures that edge the iconic street painting in the square adjacent to the lot under development will all remain, by City permit. One is the Kids’ Playhouse – a rustic, open-air kids’ meetingplace made of sticks and cob. The adjacent “Identification Station” posts the unique history of Share-It Square as a community demonstration project.

The remaining three corners of the square feature community-built cob structures that complement the sense of shared space. These include a free tea stand with eco-roof, two cob-sculpted benches, a bird bath, a free enclosed library bookcase, a notice board and exchange station, and a newspaper kiosk in the shape of a “honeybee skep” that houses monthly issues of THE BEE.

Lakeman told THE BEE that he spoke with an Everett representative “about shifting the house on the site and reworking the plan, but the rep felt there wasn't room in their budget or time in their schedule to reconsider.

He added, “Like most developers, the main problem was that Everett only uses stock house plans they repeat over and over. Unlike architectural designs, which nearly always can save significant trees, developers like Everett don’t tailor their designs to the site; they clear the site to fit their houses. If they had cared to adjust the plans slightly, they wouldn't have had to cut down the large fir.” Consequently, the huge tree was removed on January 23rd. Lakeman remarked, “For me, this tree has always been synonymous with the idea of the Tree of Life. It’s hard to see it go like this, and so unnecessary, too.”

Lakeman revealed, “I did try to arrange for urban forestry people to take the wood and mill it into usable boards and lumber, and they were on the scene on January 23rd to offer this service. Unfortunately, the Everett rep decided it was too late, and had his men cut the tree into sections that were too short to mill.” The huge sections of the tree remained at the site for a few days along with a “free firewood” sign.