By DAVE SHEELEY
Last Updated: Jan. 17, 2003
Delafield - The city is threatening to fine a hotel that increased the visibility of its sign by cutting more than 20
trees - some more than 100 years old and designated for preservation.
Most weren't on hotel property.
"For somebody to come through and clear-cut trees to expose signs rather than pursue alternate locations for their signs is just completely inappropriate," City Planner Roger Dupler said this week of the late-summer incident.
"Why didn't they just move their sign?"
Erika Luckow, spokeswoman for Baymont Inn & Suites in Milwaukee, said the trees needed to be trimmed
to increase the hotel's visibility for travelers along I-94.
The city says that Baymont should not have cut down any of the trees, but Luckow said hotel officials got the impression in discussions with the city that they could do the work.
"We are continuing to work with the city to resolve this misunderstanding," she said.
City officials and the neighboring Wal-Mart Center, whose property includes many of the trees damaged in the incident, said they never gave the hotel permission to cut the trees.
Complaint leveled In a letter to Baymont, Robert Doody of Heil, Heil, Smart & Golee of Evanston, Ill., property manager for the Wal-Mart Center, expressed anger about the incident, saying the hillside where the cutting occurred "looks like a logging company" removed the trees.
After learning of the tree-cutting, Doody wrote, "we were very disturbed to discover that the hillside on Wal-Mart Center property was butchered rather than professionally pruned and thinned out. No one contacted us to ask permission to cut on shopping center property."
Asked whether the hotel knew a portion of the trees included in the project were on the Wal-Mart property, Luckow responded by saying the hotel acted in good faith and believed what it was doing was OK.
"The hotel assumed that they weren't doing anything wrong," she said. "They wouldn't have knowingly trimmed someone else's trees."
Late last summer, Baymont contracted a landscaping
crew to cut the trees in a wooded area outside the hotel off I-94 and Highway 83.
After the tree-cutting, Wal-Mart complained to the city. Of the 24 trees damaged in the incident, the city concluded, 17 were on the Wal-Mart property and seven on the land of Baymont, part of a subsidiary of the Milwaukee-based Marcus Corp.
According to the city, the hotel violated conditions of site plans for the Baymont and Wal-Mart properties. The city-approved plans call for the wooded area to be preserved.
Such efforts have won Delafield the Tree City USA designation from The National Arbor Day Foundation.
"In cutting the trees, they violated the conditions of their existing site plan as well as their neighbor's," Dupler said. "Perhaps Baymont didn't do all their homework to know what all the restrictions were on their property."
A noticeable loss Some of the damaged trees were mature oaks that formed a canopy over other trees and warranted preservation, Dupler said.
A stump is all that is left of one of those oaks, which had a diameter of 48 inches and estimated value of $10,000, Dupler said. He called the oak, estimated to be 120 years old, irreplaceable, and noted that its stump is easily visible from the interstate.
"It just reflects poorly on the city," Dupler said. "We have made a point of preserving these wood lots."
City Administrator Matt Carlson said those who commit such violations "should expect the city is going to enforce (its codes) to the fullest extent of the law."
He said the city is considering levying a fine against Baymont and perhaps requiring the company to replace the trees - sign visibility notwithstanding. He was unable to say how much the fine would be.
"We'll expect a resolution in the next few months," he said.
After the incident, Luckow said, Baymont consulted with area horticulturists and has been assured that there will be no permanent damage to the trees.
"Everything that we've been told is that this hillside is going to be beautiful," Luckow said. "It'll be beautiful this spring."
Some aren't convinced.
"Once the trees are cut, they're gone," said Charlene Lemoine, a board member of the Waukesha
Environmental Action League.
She said that the Baymont should be issued a stern reprimand and fined - to send a message to others who might be tempted to needlessly remove trees.
"This is a serious situation and something that WEAL will be watching carefully, because we do not want this type of precedent set for development in Waukesha County," Lemoine said.
Darryl Enriquez of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.