Neighbors sorry to see oak tree go

Published 4:55 pm Friday, July 8, 2011

PLANNED IMPROVEMENTS to Williams Street, located off Butler Ferry Road in West Bainbridge, include paving and curbing of the road, new water and sewer lines, new storm drainage. Because the street’s right-of-way is only 30 feet wide, and more than half of its currently used path lies on private property, City Engineer Jim York had to straighten out the road’s path as it appears on a land plat. Residents had originally opposed the new road in an effort to save a large oak tree that lies in its path. Click the image above to see the full-size version.

The City of Bainbridge will upgrade city utilities on Williams Street and pave the road after some residents decided their need for quality services outweighed their concern for an old oak tree that will have to be removed.

The Williams Street improvements were part of a larger Community Development Block Grant project in West Bainbridge.

Debra Rambo-Freeman, who has lived at 909 Williams St. for more than 30 years, had addressed the City Council in June 2009, asking them to save a very large oak tree that was in the way of plans to pave the road.

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According to City Engineer Jim York, the path of the road has gradually shifted over time from the way it is shown on a land plat.

To pave the road, city officials were faced with a choice between straightening out the curved road to restore its legal boundary or obtaining easements from property owners along the road.

Ms. Rambo-Freeman and her neighbors asked the council in 2009 to hold off on removing the large, beautiful tree. After that, city officials began trying to get permission from property owners to allow the road to stay like it is. But the city lacked three of the necessary easements.

Rambo-Freeman and her neighbors returned to the City Council this past June, asking for a status update. She said she and her neighbors had experienced very low water pressure for long enough and were ready to give in on the tree if no other alternative could be found.

City Manager Chris Hobby and staff attempted to obtain the three holdout easements one last time before the July meeting but were unsuccessful. Hobby had mentioned the possibility of condemning part of the private land that would be necessary to keep the current road intact, but warned Rambo-Freeman that condemnation could be a lengthy, difficult legal process that would delay the infrastructure improvements by at least another year.

Another oak tree across the street from Rambo-Freeman, at 914 Williams St., will remain. However, a large oak located between 809-817 Williams St. will also be removed along with the largest one that residents had hoped could be saved.

“[The project brings] improvements but also defacement,” Rambo-Freeman said Tuesday night.

City Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer asked Mayor Edward Reynolds, who formerly chaired the Bainbridge Tree Committee, to see if the city could plant new shade trees along Williams Street once the project is finished.

York and Hobby said upgrades to the water and sewer lines and the paving of Williams Street will begin sometime this summer.