Signs now clear: He objects to trees Merchant cuts them down to enhance view of store

July 10, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

Frank Fico said he doesn't have anything against trees. It's just that the three Bradford pear trees in front of his furniture store in the 7400 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd. were blocking his going-out-of-business signs. So he cut them down.

In the process, he angered his neighbors and probably will get a county bill for about $1,000 to replace the trees in the fall.

"It's considered malicious destruction of property to go out there and do that, and we're going to have to seek restitution," said Patricia Barland, the county's urban renewal manager.

Barland said two witnesses -- whom she would not identify -- saw Fico cut down the trees in broad daylight, toss them in the back of his truck and drive off.

Fico, owner of Hathaway's Furniture, was unrepentant. He said he decided to take the trees down, hoping he would make a little more money if people could more easily see signs on his store, which closes next month.

"We did it over a couple of days," he said. "We didn't hide it. We didn't sneak them down."

The trees were planted six years ago in an effort to spruce up Glen Burnie's downtown. But Fico said they are at least partly to blame for his store's downfall.

"As soon as they put those trees up, I said it's going to be the kiss of death," he said.

He said he begged Victor Sulin, then the urban renewal manager, not to plant the trees in front of his store, but to no avail.

Potential customers can't see the store sign or the windows with trees in front of them, he argued.

"We live off the business we get from the windows," Fico said. "Our windows tell you what's here. You can't see the sign, you can't see the furniture.

Sulin said urban renewal plans called for just about every shop to have a tree in front of it -- though not every merchant liked it.

Other merchants agreed that the trees block their signs, but say they've never gotten a hankering to chop them down. Instead, some place small signs in their windows.

"The trees are a problem," agreed Adam Feierabend, manager of Twilite Zone Comics at 18 N. Crain Highway. "But I don't know if I want to kill a tree or uproot it. Maybe trim it."

The last time someone chopped down a tree in the urban renewal district was about five years ago, one block north of Fico's shop, said Sulin. The culprit wasn't caught, but the county sent letters to merchants threatening prosecution if it happened again.

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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