GOSHEN — Residents of The Gardens Fourth subdivision on the city’s west side will need to wait a month to learn whether a large swath of mature trees along the west side of Tulip Boulevard will be allowed to remain or be cleared to make way for a new sidewalk.
During their meeting Tuesday afternoon, Goshen Plan Commission members voted to table for a month a request by Advanced Management Group LLC, developers of The Gardens subdivision, for an amendment to a previous subdivision approval granted in 2003 that required a sidewalk to be installed along the west side of Tulip Boulevard, south of Clinton Street, extending south to 2407 Tulip Blvd.
According to Rhonda Yoder, planning and zoning administrator for the city, the petitioners are seeking the amendment in order to remove the sidewalk requirement along the west side of Tulip Boulevard, as they feel removal of the existing swath of mature trees along the roadway that would need to happen in order for the sidewalk to be installed would be a detriment to the neighborhood.
“Each section of The Gardens subdivision required sidewalks on both sides of all streets. The Gardens Fourth was granted primary approval by the Plan Commission on Oct. 15, 2002, and included the specific condition requiring sidewalks on both sides of the street. Secondary approval was granted by the Plan Commission on Oct. 21, 2003,” Yoder said of the original agreement, noting that the petitioner’s request seems to be warranted given the narrow amount of right of way on the west side of Tulip Boulevard, and the many existing mature trees that would be required to be removed to install a sidewalk along the road’s west side. “Removing the existing mature trees would have a negative impact on both The Gardens subdivision as well as the apartment complex to the west. There are also impediments to the sidewalk installation at the intersection of Tulip Boulevard with Clinton Street. The applicant is willing to install a mid-block crossing to connect the sidewalks on both sides of Tulip Boulevard.”
Along those lines, Yoder noted that there are currently three single-family lots being developed on the east side of Tulip Boulevard that, when finished, will complete the sidewalk along the east side of the roadway, which should mitigate the loss of sidewalk on the west side of the roadway.
“A house is also currently under construction on the west side of Tulip Boulevard, 2407 Tulip Blvd., and will complete the sidewalk connection on the west side of Tulip Boulevard. The timing is appropriate to remove the sidewalk condition along the west side of Tulip Boulevard and install a mid-block crossing to connect the two sidewalks,” Yoder added of the issue. “The Gardens subdivision does not have through traffic because its street system is not connected outside the subdivision except with Clinton Street, so an appropriately designed mid-block crossing should accommodate safe use of the sidewalk system within the subdivision.”
AGAINST THE PROPOSAL
Not everyone in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting agreed with Yoder’s reasoning, however.
Among those to speak out against the petition was Michael Kauffman, owner of the home at 2503 Tulip Blvd., Goshen, who attended Tuesday’s meeting to speak on behalf of The Gardens Homeowners Association board.
“We are against the amendment for several reasons, first of all the safety issue of especially the children walking to and from school,” Kauffman said referencing Model Elementary School, which is located just to the southeast of the subdivision. “There are more children and more adults, as that goes, walking up and down to school. It seems like we have a lot who walk to school. In terms of stopping that (sidewalk) at 2407, that is right at a curb, and it is hard to see around there. That’s a big issue for us, as well as the many people who walk in the neighborhood.”
As for the issue of the trees, Kauffman said he actually sees most of the trees as a detriment, given that many appear to be old and are prone to have falling limbs, etc.
“So speaking about the mature trees, they are mature, very mature. They’re falling down, which is a big concern of ours,” Kauffman said of the board. “We’ve started a plan to clean that up because every time we have a storm, more limbs are falling down. The mature trees are right on what was a fence line, which is now the property line. So the board would like to see more of a natural fence there to block the view (of the nearby apartment complex) and enhance that area and make it look nice, and landscape that. That’s what we would like to do, and get rid of the safety issues of falling, mature trees.”
Kauffman noted that he did some measuring along Tulip Boulevard, and from the west side of the curb of the street, the width of the right of way would allow for a 4-foot strip of grass next to the curb — the norm for sidewalks in The Gardens subdivision — as well as a 4-foot sidewalk, with some room to spare for additional landscaping beyond the sidewalk should most or all of the nearby trees be removed.
As an alternate option, Kauffman said it appears most of the mature trees that are in the best condition are located right along the existing property line, and are likely far enough away from the curb that they could be salvaged even if a sidewalk is put in.
“It would require the removal of those trees that are detrimental to health and property. It would not require the removal of any other trees,” Kauffman said. “You could do the whole thing without removing the mature trees that are on the property line.”
In addition, several commission members questioned whether it may also be possible to reduce or eliminate the 4-foot strip of grass next to the curb when putting in the sidewalk, which could potentially allow for the saving of even more of the trees in question by pushing the sidewalk closer to the curb.
Given those options, commission member Jim Wellington suggested that the commission might want to consider tabling the request for a month in order to allow Goshen city forester Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley time to visit the subdivision and determine exactly how many trees are actually salvageable before a final decision on the request is made.
“I’m kind of thinking that maybe the city forester could go. He’s someone who really knows what trees are really worth saving, and what should just be cleaned up,” Wellington said of the suggestion. “It sounds like there could be some space to get rid of some of the grass, and maybe save some trees. I think there’s some play there that we should see about.”
A majority of the commission’s members agreed, and a motion to table the request for a month in order to give the city forester and other appropriate city officials time to assess the situation with the sidewalk and the trees was passed unanimously.
The commission’s next meeting is currently scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 20 in the council chambers of the Goshen Police & Courts Building, 111 E. Jefferson St.
John Kline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 315. Follow John on Twitter @jkline_TGN