Scores of decades-old trees are being cut down this week in Minnetonka, after residents lost efforts to fight the city’s plan to remove trees for infrastructure work.
On Monday, the City Council denied residents’ request for a more detailed environmental review of the $7.2 million project, saying that work to update water mains and sewers and add curbs and gutters already meet required state approvals.
Even if an environmental review was done, City Attorney Corrine Heine told the council, “There’s no guarantee that it would result in any change to the project.”
She added that it could also delay road reconstruction by a year and open the city to legal action from the project’s contractor.
Crews started to tear down trees Tuesday.
The project was approved in February and bids were awarded in March. But earlier this month about 30 residents packed a city meeting after finding out their trees would be coming down. They pushed the city to use a boring technique for the infrastructure that wouldn’t affect as many trees.
Opponents won a temporary delay this month after filing a petition, signed by more than 60 Minnetonka residents, with the state Environmental Quality Board asking for the environmental assessment work sheet.
But city leaders said the infrastructure work couldn’t be done without removing trees, which are in the right-of-way. They said the city is trying to balance tree preservation with the need to do work in a timely and cost-effective way.
Mary and Joe Schmidt, who led the residents’ opposition by wrapping their four 70-year-old silver maples with yellow tape in protest, won a separate agreement with the city to save the trees by using a trench box and paying extra costs.
As for other trees, city officials said they had reduced the number of trees to be removed from nearly 300 to less than 200 trees on Shores Boulevard and nine other streets.
“Everybody was very disappointed,” resident Dick Koppy said. “These are not small trees … it will certainly help that they save as many trees as they can.”