Mount Vernon restoration plan gets partial approval

Plan to replace more than 100 trees must undergo further review

December 14, 2010|By Edward Gunts, The Baltimore Sun

After more than two hours of public testimony and debate, the nonprofit Mount Vernon Place Conservancy received partial approval Tuesday to move ahead with an $18.5 million plan to restore and upgrade Baltimore's Washington Monument and the four public squares around it.

But the group's proposal to replace more than 100 trees must undergo further review.

Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation voted unanimously to approve the conservancy's restoration plan for the Washington Monument, which has been closed for repairs since June, as well as the statues, fountains, balustrades, fencing and masonry elements around its base.

But the panel voted to defer until February any vote on the conservancy's proposal to replace all but one of the 118 trees in and around the squares with new trees in a slightly different configuration.

Nearly a dozen people at the meeting voiced concerns about the loss of city trees, and staffers from the preservation agency said they received a study from two local arborists who said they feel the removal of healthy trees is "unnecessary and unwarranted." The preservation panel has also received petitions signed by more than 1,700 people concerned about the replacement of trees in the city-owned park, which is part of a historic district.

Working with a Philadelphia-based landscape architect, Olin, the conservancy has tried since earlier this year to win city approval for its restoration plan so it can begin raising funds to complete the entire project by 2015.

The preservation commissioners asked that community representatives form a committee to meet with the conservancy over the next two months to address concerns about the tree replacement proposal and other issues, including the possible narrowing of streets framing the public squares.

Karen Footner, a spokeswoman for the conservancy, said she was disappointed that the entire plan was not approved Tuesday but that the conservancy will continue to meet with the community in an effort to allay concerns. The preservation commission will consider the project at its meeting on Feb. 8.

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