UPDATE: Old Southwest Neighborhood Compromises on Tree Removal

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COLUMBIA - City representatives attended a meeting Thursday night held by the Historic Old Southwest Neighborhood Association to discusss the fate of the eight sweet gum trees located on Westwood Avenue. The city put orange X's on these trees early this month and decided to remove them. The meeting reached a decision to remove three of the eight trees and leave the rest up to discussion.

"These trees have been there sine the 1940s," Hank Ottinger, the president of association said. "It's not the same neighborhood without the trees."

However, some of the neighbors were upset about the plan and the fact the city did not inform them of the removal until the last minute. Also, having had the trees for decades, the neighbors have developed an affinity toward them.

"The trees provide a good canopy for the street in summer, and they are beautiful in fall." Ottinger said. 

The sweet gum trees may be sweet to the neighbors, but the city has several bitter reasons for their removal. Officials said the trees have grown fungus and could infect other trees. And some trees' roots have lifted up the pieces of the sidewalk and wrecked the curbs of the road raising safety issues for pedestrians and people in wheelchairs. Finally, the branches of the trees keep falling. The city said that will damage residents' property in stormy weather. 

Due to those factors, deputy city manager Tony St. Romaine said it is the city's liability to make sure of the safety of public construction.

Ottinger said the agreement with the city has been reached but not yet finalized.