CLEVELAND - Some Cleveland business owners, and a member of Cleveland City Council, are upset about the sudden removal of a 30-foot Linden tree on W. 25th Street.
Business owners said the tree was perfectly healthy and was only removed to improve the view of a large billboard owned by Clear Channel Outdoor.
"I was shocked when I saw the tree. It was cut down, the head was lopped off, it was so upsetting," said W. 25th Street business owner Maria Keckan. "It was a healthy tree, it could have been trimmed. The company did not call us. The city didn't notify us. It's on our tree lawn."
Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins said W. 25th Street in Cleveland is designated as a National Scenic Byway. Cummins is concerned Clear Channel Outdoor did not file all the proper paperwork with the Cleveland Urban Forestry Division.
"In this case, we do have a copy of the issued permit, but do not yet have any other documentation such as the permit application or correspondence," said Councilman Cummins. "One of the primary issues we'll be looking into is why the city did not save the tree and approve Clear Channel to simply trim the tree as opposed to removal."
Councilman Cummins provided NewsChannel5 with pictures that clearly show the tree only partially obscured the view of the billboard.
W. 25th Street business owner Neil McCormick told NewsChannel5 the tree was removed outside of current city ordinance 509.02.
"You can only cut down a tree if the tree is sick, or if somehow it's a hazard or danger," said McCormick. "Here we are tree city, the forest city, and to see a tree get whacked because of business interests? If everybody did that, all the trees down West 25th would get cut down because they're blocking the signs in front of establishments."
NewsChannel5 contacted Clear Channel Outdoor, and the Cleveland Urban Forestry Division, to get an explanation as to why the tree was cut down, rather than trimmed.
Clear Channel Outdoor responded immediately. Jim Cullinan, V.P. of Communications, issued the following statement.
"As part of regular and necessary maintenance around our properties, Clear Channel Outdoor removed the tree at W. 25th & Franklin after receiving the necessary permit from city of Cleveland's Department of Urban Forestry."
"Outdoor advertising is an economic engine for local Cleveland businesses by providing them with the most affordable and effective advertising option to reach Cleveland-area citizens. Clearly, it is important to our advertisers that the view of our billboards be clear which is why we work with the city and county to do the appropriate maintenance."
"Clear Channel Outdoor is very aware and sensitive to the environmental issues with our properties, and as part of the Cleveland permit process, we will plant five new trees and have already planted 20 trees in the area to keep Cleveland beautiful."
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works, Division of Park Maintenance and Properties, issued this statement:
"There are instances in which trees are trimmed due to the lack of visibility of a sign; however, in this particular situation tree trimming was not an option. Half of the tree would have to be removed in order to clear the sign, at which point the tree would be considered hazardous (structural defect) and a threat to the public."
"The 15' Linden tree will be replaced by Clear Channel with five (5) 3" trees to be placed in proper places around the city; furthermore, Clear Channel will repair the tree pit according to sidewalk specifications."
"No tree will be replanted at this site, due to the bad location, small tree pit, and proximity to the pole."
Still, Councilman Cummins vowed to look further into the incident, and business owners, like Maria Keckan, want more complete answers.
"Laws need to be tightened up in order to preserve our trees, and preserve our views," said Keckan. "Big corporations can't be cutting down what took 30 years to create. Just log onto Scenic America to find out what's really going on in this country."