Sidewalk construction has started on The Square in Pilot Point, but one property owner is unhappy about part of the city project: removal of five trees that line the Liberty Street sidewalk.
Gretta Buchanan wishes the city did not have to take out the trees, which rest on top of the sidewalks.
“They’re just aesthetically pleasing,” Buchanan said. “People like to sit under them needed shade and character to The Square.” and visit. They bring much needed shade and character to The Square.”
Buchanan owns some land on the south side of The Square, and her cousin, Tom Kam of Austin, owns a portion, too.
The trees are on top of the Atmos gas line, said City Manager Alan Guard, and must be removed. Buchanan said in a Facebook post that the city never informed her the city trees would be removed. Guard differs about the trees’ future. “I had a meeting with her a month ago to talk about buying her property and that’s when I told her,” Guard said.
Guard said in a subsequent email that he didn’t know about the Atmos gas line’s position under the trees until two weeks ago. Buchanan said she did not know about the gas line until Monday.
“I gave them an option at the very least to replace them with some substantial trees if they absolutely had to be taken out, and they just said no,” Buchanan said.
The trees would break up the new sidewalk if they are not removed, Guard said. He would like to find someone who can turn the trees into some kind of art.
The city will take them down and carve them up and would like to something to do with them. “They tear up sidewalks — that’s why you get rid of trees,” Guard said. “Trees belong in grass, not in sidewalks. So we’ll put potted trees back over there. It will be very tasteful and very nice.”
Buchanan said she thought the buildings could be set back some to accommodate the trees. On her Facebook page, she said, with the buildings set back, the sidewalk then could be built around the trees. “Or at the very least build the sidewalk around new, smaller trees,” she said on her Facebook page.
In addition to sidewalks on the south side of The Square, new walkways will be done next to The Purple Door, adjacent to Washington Street and around the Farmers and Merchants bank and in front of Pilot Point Community Opera House, Lowbrows Beer and Wine Garden and the hotel under current construction south of Lowbrows.
Two handicap-accessible ramps will be installed: one in front of The Purple Door and one in front of Pelzel’s barbershop. “They said they would like to have it done in 60 days,” Guard said about the contractor. “They have 90 days according to the contract.”
The city received a grant from Texas Capital Fund-Main Street for the sidewalks, curb ramp and parking improvements, City Secretary Alice Holloway said.
The grant is for $250,000. In addition to the handicap-accessible ramps, curb ramps will be added in several locations, Holloway said. “The goal of this project is to bring the city square of Pilot Point up to accessibility standards and make our downtown pedestrian safe,” Holloway said.
Some lighting and electrical work is to be done in The Square, too, by a different contractor, Guard said. Kam wanted a flat sidewalk on the south side of The Square. The city will put a 1 percent grade on the sidewalk so water will run off. “Tom submitted a plan [he did not indicate that it was prepared by a structural engineer] about a year ago that had bump-outs for trees that TxDOT would not have approved,” Guard said in an email. “He also wants a flat sidewalk rather than a grade that allows water to run off.
Obviously, we want a grade. The plan we submitted had to be approved by TxDOT and the Texas Historical Commission.
Both agencies approved the plan.” Guard worried about what would have happened had the city tried to build around the trees and lowered the sidewalks. He wondered whether the trees would have survived with their root balls most likely chopped at and exposed for an extended period of time. “How much money would we have spent only to have the trees die anyway?
And then what do we do? Pay again to remove the trees?” he said. “This conversation was had with Gretta on April 4 and she could not provide an answer.” Kam said the trees are important to Buchanan, explaining he looked at the sidewalk design from the city and decided to offer his alternate design that would satisfy Buchanan’s concerns.
She has two lots in the center of the property, and “two of the nicer trees are in the center,” he said, so he came up with a design to keep the trees. He said his concern centers on historical and marketing considerations.
“The trees aren’t important to me, but what is important to me is that we keep the historical elevation of that side of The Square and that it be level so that when I build something I can have the opportunity to have tenants on one level,” he said.
Kam also was concerned about a skid loader that was left on his property. The contractor accidentally left it there, according to an email obtained by the Post- Signal, but Kam demanded the company, North Rock Construction in Denton, which is doing the rebuild of sidewalks, pay him “rent” for the mishap.
The contractor referred Kam to the city about the incident. Guard said the city won’t pay the charge.