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Ravenna won't regulate tree cutting

By DIANE SMITH Staff Writer Published: April 21, 2017 4:00 AM
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Doug Senseman used to find Maple Grove Cemetery a "peaceful" place to visit his friends, until the neighboring property owner took down numerous trees next door.

Weeks later, Senseman, a retired teacher at Ravenna High School who lives in Brimfield, is still trying to make sense of it all.

"When I wanted to add onto my garage, I had to go before a board of five people," he said during a visit to the cemetery. Pointing at the fallen trees behind him, he said, "This requires nothing?"

A committee of Ravenna City Council considered an ordinance requiring those who take down trees to plant new ones in their place, but ultimately decided not to "go out on a limb" by doing so.

But that doesn't mean a recent controversy won't be addressed, Mayor Frank Seman said.

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Ray Harner, who bought the former General Electric plant in October, generated some controversy recently when he cleared a large number of trees on the back of the 47-acre property. Because part of the property borders the cemetery, residents expressed concern about the tree cutting because of the effect it has on the neighboring property.

The issue came up before Ravenna City Council's Planning Committee, which debated an ordinance that would have required property owners to get a permit before clearing trees.

The chairman of the committee, Rob Kairis, said he could understand that the city might want to regulate tree clearing, just as residents are required to get a building permit before building a shed. However, when he researched the issue, he could not find a similar ordinance in place in other cities.

"I don't know if we should go out on a limb and create legislation that is so different from other communities," he said.

Councilwoman Amy Michael, whose parents are buried in Maple Grove, said she was concerned about the tree clearing. She said she could understand requiring property owners to plant trees somewhere else to "give back to the environment." However, she noted, the Harner property is likely the only parcel left in the city limits where such a large tree clearing project could take place.

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Harner has said he has no immediate plans to develop the property. However, he wants to be ready to start construction if an opportunity should arise. He also wants to prevent the trees to become a habitat for the endangered Indiana bat, which tends to live in old hardwood trees like the ones that were on Harner's property.

Because the bat is endangered and generally emerges from hibernation around April, Harner would have been prevented from cutting down trees during the spring and summer months had the bats moved into his trees. That would prevent Harner from doing any construction until the following spring.

Councilman Bruce Ribelin said council shouldn't interfere with "free enterprise" and should let people do what they want on their own property. He said he does believe the damage to the cemetery fence should be repaired. However he disputed claims about tree clearing in the cemetery.

"Those trees were not in the cemetery," he said.

Mayor Frank Seman said even without an ordinance, that doesn't mean the issue won't be addressed. He said whatever project Harner comes up with, it will go before the city's Planning Commission, which may require trees to be planted as a buffer.

He said the cemetery also plans to plant some trees on its side of the fence.

"There is a 10-foot strip that was kept cleared because it's easier to mow," he said.

Cemetery Sexton Mark Gabriel said there are three spots on the cemetery fence that are in need of repair, but that is being delayed until stump removal is complete on Harner's property, because the fence might be further damaged during that process.

"My concern is whatever they do there, that it's done right," he said, adding that he plans to keep an eye on future plans on the Harner property.

He said the cemetery puts money in its budget every year for tree planting and tree removal. However, he said, many trees are so old that they have to be removed, which tends to consume most of that budget.

He said Harner stopped by the cemetery to introduce himself, and directed his workers to shut down the work when a service was held at the cemetery.

"He was very respectful," he said.

Senseman stressed that he has nothing against Harner.

"Nobody's saying he's a bad guy," he said. "I just wish this had been done differently."


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redleg6 Apr 21, 2017 10:21 PM

From above:..the Harner property is likely the only parcel left in the city limits where such a large tree clearing project could take place...

*** Appearently, Harner, the Mayor, and City Council don't care much about trees, unless they grow money...

The Ravenna Mayors didn't/don't care about the trees..

The "Ravenna City Council's Planning Committee" doesn't care about the trees...Trees have been cut all over...

The trees were cut at Lake Hodgson...

The trees were cut at Robinson Memorial...

Now the trees are cut at GE....

The common denominator in all of the tree cutting is the Do nothing Ravenna Politicians that are elected to PROTECT the neighborhoods, its citizens, dead or alive, but don't...

I drove thru Maple Grove a few days ago, the Mayor, and the City Council should be ASHAMED to have let such a thing happen that close to the cemetery, without a fight...

Remember how hard the city fought to get the "UN-DESIRABLES" and the PARTA shelters removed from Main St...Such Out Rage..Fast Action..

Either the cities leaders are total incompetents, or there Maybe some greedy wheeling/dealing, cash involved...

Who bought the wood...???

Maybe a relative or a political crony..???

How about an investigation..???

Q... Why did the City let Harner cut the trees without a fight..???

Didn't a city employee get busted for selling city wood..???

Ravenna High should change their name to the Wood-Chucks or the Beavers...

Not many trees left in Ravenna for a Raven to land...

What a SHAME..!!!