The city of Blaine plans to spend as much as $100,000 to replant trees in a wetland after a controversial clear-cutting drew the ire of a nearby neighborhood.
"We will do as much as we can for that money," said Mayor Tom Ryan. "I don't necessarily think that it has to be that much, but that's the maximum. Not a dime over."
In January, crews cleared trees as part of wetland restoration work on city land west of Lexington Avenue and north of 109th Avenue. Some residents estimate that a city contractor felled more than 1,000 trees on the site, which is in the 500-acre Blaine Wetland Sanctuary.
Neighbors lamented the lack of city communication as well as the loss of a privacy buffer. They say they also worry about hits to property values in an area where homes can sell for more than $500,000.
The tree culling sparked heated community gatherings and resulted in the creation of a neighborhood committee, which forwarded recommendations to city leaders at a workshop this month.
"I do think that the $100,000 or some amount of money brings us to a good compromise," said Council Member Julie Jeppson, who is on the committee. "The city heard what the residents had to say."
The wetland site is a key part of Blaine's open space management plan. City officials say that ridding the area of invasive species will allow rare and endangered native plants to take root.
The mayor said he is concerned that the city's decision to fund replanting sets a troubling precedent.
"We've never done this before," Ryan said. "Somebody is going to ask the question someday of where's this money coming from and are you going to do this for everybody that says that they don't like what they see?"
City officials say it's not clear where the money will come from. The funds could be spent on a gate and landscaping around a much-debated maintenance access point, as well as planting trees near homes next to the sanctuary. Proposed species include river birch, red maple, northern pin oak and tamarack.
Final recommendations for spending will be forwarded to the council for approval, said City Engineer Jean Keely. Planting could begin as early as this fall or next spring, she said.