DOVER — After the Dover City Council received backlash for a proposal that would have seen 75 trees removed on North Bradford Street in order to bring the sidewalk in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the council is now looking to remove 13 trees from the street.
In a Tuesday Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee meeting, Public Works Director Sharon Duca recommended the city employ Century Engineering to develop a concept plan for street and sidewalk improvement work that would bring the area back into ADA compliance.
The committee opted to move the recommendation forward to an upcoming city council meeting for approval.
According to its website, Century Engineering is a “multidisciplinary” engineering firm headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, with an office in Dover. The firm offers professional planning and design services, its website states.
Century Engineering’s concept plan is estimated to cost $40,000, which would come from the Department of Public Works’ budget.
The proposal to remove 75 trees was part of the city’s fiscal year 2020 Street and Alley Repaving program, which replaced cracked and damaged curbs, sidewalks and drainage inlets throughout the city.
On North Bradford Street, 75 mature trees that had warped the sidewalks, curbs and roads due to root growth were originally proposed to be removed in order to accomplish the goals of the project.
During a July 7 public meeting, which was attended by representatives from the Delaware Forest Service, residents and community members pushed back against the proposal to remove so many trees. Many of the attendees said they would rather see other alternatives than tree removal.
Ms. Duca said DFS later evaluated all 75 trees and determined that 13 must be removed due to being in poor condition or dead. She said DFS determined the remaining 62 trees should be preserved.
While some alternative methodologies that pair tree preservation with ADA compliance were pitched during the July 7 community meeting, Ms. Duca said staff determined each tree needs its own preservation plan.
“In order to present a plan that we need for the public, we actually need to look at each tree and determine which procedure or which alternative is going to work out best at that location,” Ms. Duca said.
One proposed solution was shaving down the sidewalk to even out the path in areas raised by root growth. Another was extending the sidewalk further into private property, with permission from owners, to move the path away from the root growth.
If approved, an expert from Century Engineering would then serve as a consultant on the project to preserve the trees. Ms. Duca said Century Engineering has worked with DelDOT and the city of Wilmington in designing streetscape improvement projects that include tree preservation.
When the process is complete, a public hearing will be scheduled, with the Century Engineering consultant present, to review the concept plan, Ms. Duca said.
“Once we have the plan in place, we will be better situated to meet with the public again and present a plan to them as to how we can move forward,” Ms. Duca said.
Councilwoman Tricia Arndt, who represents the third district where North Bradford Street is located, praised Ms. Duca’s proposal to personalize how each tree is handled and work with property owners to find a solution.
“(The meeting) was really well done,” Councilwoman Arndt said. “The residents came in, obviously with their concerns. The solution that you proposed to speak with each homeowner and evaluate each tree was well received. It sounds incredibly labor intensive and I can see why you would need a consultant to come in and help work through that planning process with you.”
Roy Sudler, president of the council, also praised Ms. Duca for her professionalism and response to pushback from residents.