The removal of trees in downtown Delta may be the catalyst that breathes life back into a lagging downtown revitalization effort.
The Community Revitalization Partnership was launched in 2010 at the encouragement of former city manager Joe Kerby.
Several groups were formed to focus on marketing, special events and streetscapes. But without a source of revenue, revitalization efforts stalled.
The topic of trees was raised at a recent city council meeting, where two Main Street business owners complained about the lack of a replacement plan for the trees that have been removed.
Marcia Kelly, part owner of Fat Cat Pottery, inquired about the overall plan for tree removal, including the number, timing and location of trees to be removed. In locations where trees have been removed because their roots have caused the sidewalk to heave, she asked when the sidewalks would be replaced and how the tree stumps would be handled. The west side of the 500 block of Main is fully occupied for the first time in seven years, but she fears the lack of shade will discourage customers from coming downtown this summer. "I would certainly hate to see people start to abandon those buildings because of the change in ambience," she said.
Carlotta Pagone, owner of Second Edition, said she was part of the downtown revitalization design team before the effort was put on the back burner. She urged the city to develop a comprehensive plan for tree removal and replanting. "If we don't have a comprehensive plan, then we end up in the situation where we are right now, where our trees are all maturing at about the same time because they were all planted at the same time. Theoretically, we need to start interspersing them now [with younger trees] so we don't have this problem again in 20 years." She also urged the city to put an arborist back on staff.
City manager Justin Clifton told both business owners they could expect downtown revitalization to be renewed later this year. But he also said resources are scarce. The one-cent sales tax collected by the city pays for "everything under the sun" and for the next 30 years, any new dollars coming in have been pledged for debt service on the truck route, a project undertaken to help revitalize downtown.
"It's difficult to do it all, and almost impossible to do it all simultaneously," he said.
Regarding the trees specifically, he said the challenge is to create a pedestrian-friendly community that's both walkable and aesthetically beautiful. Right now, the trees and sidewalks are "competing interests." The simple solution is to cut down the mature trees, replace them with younger saplings and replace sidewalks that are tripping hazards. The bigger challenge, he said, is to sustain a beautiful landscape and safe sidewalks long term.
In some communities, Clifton added, business owners have created a downtown business district or improvement association. They voluntarily tax themselves to generate revenue for those kinds of projects.
Councilmember Ray Penick said he shares the business owners' concerns.
"One of the things that has been concerning to me is what will happen to Main Street if we get everybody to take the bypass," Penick said. "Now is the time to be planning, and I'm reaching out to the people on Main Street. Will you be willing to help us come up with ideas of what can be done, what we can afford to do? I would be very willing to sit down with a group on Main Street and see what we can come up with. This is a great opportunity to plan."
Clifton agreed. "Now that the truck route is underway, it's time to reassemble downtown revitalization to address these kinds of scenarios. Expect something this year."blog comments powered by Disqus