Ashland Plaza trees could undergo a sudden growth spurt, if councilors approve acceptance of a donation of four new trees and transplanting of a fifth on the iconic downtown island.
The proposal was discussed both at a study session Monday and again at a council meeting Tuesday.
The proposal calls for replacing four of the small trees on the Plaza with larger ones, up to 30 feet high, at no charge to the city. Solid Ground Landscaping has agreed to cover the costs and to donate the current trees to the parks department and Southern Oregon University.
“For me, this has been an incredible process because there’s been no contention. It’s an absolute win/win,” said Greg Trunnell, a former city Tree Commission member who is spearheading the community group requesting, and offering to fund, the tree upgrade.
While councilors were generally favorable in the discussion, Mike Morris and Lemhouse both expressed concerns.
“It has profound policy implications, accepting money for city projects,” said Lemhouse. “If we take money for something we like, what happens when someone brings a big check for something we don’t?”
City Attorney Dave Lohman answered that the city has no obligation to approve any project it does not believe is in the city’s interest. As an example the mural on Calle Guanajuato was paid for entirely by an individual resident.
Morris expressed concern at what he said felt like a switch in direction about trees. “In the past we’ve decided not to take out healthy trees,” he said.
It was agreed that councilor Dennis Slattery would request the item be added to Tuesday’s council agenda and be discussed and possibly voted on there. At Tuesday's meeting, it was decided the council would make a final decision at its next business meeting on March 21, after a few details were clarified.
The city of Ashland is also in the process of formulating a process for replacing long-time Recorder Barbara Christensen, who will retire effective April 30 after 24 years in the elected position. Christensen reviewed with the council at their study session Monday night the requirements involved in appointing her replacement. Councilors must have the position permanently filled within 60 days of her departure, meaning the next office holder needs to be in place by July 1. The person must be an Ashland resident and be registered to vote. The position is normally by election, but since she is resigning it is up to the council to fill it.
“Thank you for your kindness and patience,” she told the assembled council. “We want someone in soon to train the person.” While the basic requirement by city charter are slim, the job, Christensen described is complex, including managing the city’s day-to-day finances and keeping the minutes and archive of ordinances to remain up to date.
Councilor Lemhouse asked the recorder if the council is limited by the charter in selecting the qualifications of a new recorder. “We’ve been spoiled by Barb’s professionalism,” he said. Christensen suggested that they are not bound by any requirements but those in the charter. She told the council it can create any number of processes to fill the position. The council agreed to take out an advertisement to fill the position.
Other items discussed involved were future discussions around banning smoking outside Pioneer Hall, which serves as an emergency shelter; and getting funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund on an agenda in May.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.