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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -
Funding is at stake for the city of Toledo if trees in a certain area are not removed properly. Concerns of preserving a historic neighborhood are putting plans on hold.
According to a letter sent to the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, "all ground actions for this project involving work by ODOT, city of Toledo, or utility companies shall cease until this matter is resolved."
The $6.2 million project involves reconstructing Collingwood Boulevard between Monroe Street and Central Avenue, as well as a new water main line. The project does include planting new trees.
Although documents were approved and plans were filed by ODOT in January, the city removed some trees in the area of public right of way at the end of the month, in advance of utility relocation. This caused confusion because plans addressing issues were not explained prior and residents complained the city began work too soon.
City officials defend actions, saying the trees would die anyway as a result of disrupting root systems during construction. Jeni Belt, president of the Old West End Association, believes the city has the neighborhood's best interest in mind.
"When you add the fact the project is going to happen and may cause damage to trees that are already not that healthy, and the fact we are going to get new trees as a result, it seemed like the best compromise given all of the variables," explained Belt. "These trees are 50 years old. So we've been through this cycle before, obviously not in my lifetime, but it is a legacy we're planning for."
However, residents say they want to keep the trees that provide a canopy look to the street.
"This is a historic district and one of the things that makes it a historic district is the tree canopy, and that tree canopy they're going to remove is going to affect how this district looks," said resident Dave Neuendorff.
The two-year project is now under review by the Federal Highway Administration, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and Ohio Historic Preservation Office. More than $3 million of federal funding is at stake.
Until the issues are resolved, there will be no payments made by FHWA, all actions on the ground will stop and the city of Toledo, along with ODOT, will work with the federal review process until a solution is found.
Neuendorff believes the trees and project can coexist.
"To just wipe out all of the trees is necessary because Collingwood could be redeveloped and the water line could be put in and the street could be narrowed back to its historic residential proportions without any difficulty," he said.
ODOT will need to reissue final plans for a 15-day review with a full explanation so neighbors have the opportunity to read about the project.
If there is any more activity on the grounds, federal authorization for the project could be revoked.