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Birmingham residents rally to stop proposed neighborhood construction that would kill historic trees

Posted at 6:25 PM, Jan 30, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 18:25:33-05

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (WXYZ) — Tuesday morning, through heavy snowfall, Birmingham resident Jim Mirro was able to show the Birmingham City Commission something he is deeply passionate about, the natural history of his neighborhood.

He, along with some of his neighbors, took the commission on a walking tour of Arlington Street and Shirley Road.

Mirro has lived on Arlington Street in Birmingham for 45 years and told us that this past fall the commission told homeowners on Arlington and Shirley that they are considering narrowing the streets and creating a sidewalk.

Its construction would kill hundreds of historic trees and destroy some brick walls.

"This is part of the history of this city and you want to just take it down," said Mirro.

Neighbors who we talked to said they were shocked.

Lauren Buttazzoni grew up on Arlington and now lives here with her own children, she said; "Nobody seems to understand why the city is so adamant about making the sidewalks happen here when 99% of the 80 homeowners on Arlington and Shirley do not want them."

"This was built in the 1920s!" said Mirro gesturing to the roads.

Mirro told us that he recently called the DNR for an assessment of what trees would be affected by the construction and was told, "Not only will 138 trees be destroyed right away, but probably another 138 trees will be destroyed on private property from root disturbance caused by sidewalk construction."

Birmingham City Manager Jana Ecker was at the walking tour, and she said; "I’m a tree hugger myself, don’t get me wrong, I love trees, but the vast majority of them are prohibited species because they’re not good for urban environments. They’re prone to breaking and splitting and hollowing out inside and falling."

Ecker said she talked to the DNR as well and learned only about 31-to37 of the trees on these streets are in good condition.

She said those trees would be dug out and moved, and 200 younger trees would also be planted.

Ecker said it's improvement needed as part of the city's initiative to be more walkable.

"And that involves new pavement, curbs, gutters, in this case, its 100-year-old water and 100-year-old sewer lines basically," said Ecker.

Homeowners at the tour argued there are ways to make the improvements without impacting as many trees and the road size which they worry about being narrowed, saying they don't see that as safe.

The walking tour ended Tuesday with Mirro saying he hopes their concerns are heard because once any kind of history is destroyed, there's no way of getting it back.

"This is more than aesthetics, more than character, more than stupidity regarding environmental actions," said Mirro.

The Birmingham City Commission said the potential construction will be discussed again at the next city commission meeting.