A proposed plan to plant an arborvitae hedge in the city’s right of way at the bottom of Allyn Street met heavy resistance from neighbors voicing concerns that it would block views of the water and would relinquish city property to private property owners.

The arborvitae would have been planted 21 feet into the city’s right of way to provide more privacy to the owners of the property because the right of way is a heavily traveled area used by residents to gain access to the water. However, during a May 15 City Council meeting, councilors tabled the issue of allowing the plantings because they were unsure how to address the issue.

The property in question, 44 Allyn St., is owned by Colleen Oberg, according to city property records. The Obergs wanted to plant the arborvitae to provide privacy for their home because the city right of way is located two feet from the corner of their house.

During the June 5 City Council meeting, councilors once again addressed the issue of whether the city would allow plantings within the right of way. Several neighbors wrote letters and spoke during the meeting to make known their concerns about the proposed plantings. Carl Collins and his wife, Karen, who live on Cottage Street, both spoke out against allowing the plantings in the right of way.

“We don’t have anything against the owners, but that right of way is unique to the city,” Carl said. “There’s a lot of natural beauty in that right of way, and I just want you to think about this issue.”

Karen said the proposal to plant arborvitae in the city right of way upset her and that she was “against any plantings in the right of ways.”

“Planting in the right of way takes away from the rest of us. The plantings would block about one-third of my view,” Karen said.

City Manager Joseph Slocum received several emails from concerned neighbors who spoke out against the arborvitae plantings. One email from Helen and Harry Burns, who live on Allyn Street, said it would be inappropriate for the city to allow the plantings in the right of way because of the time and money that was spent locating and marking all city-owned rights of way.

“When the property owner asked for 21 feet on the right of way (this is almost one-third of the right of way), I feel this may have been a way to get the city to compromise. If the city compromises, I’m sure many property owners who abut right of ways will be coming to the city for the same privilege. How can the city deny them?” the email said.

Since the city does not have an ordinance regarding plantings in city-owned rights of way, city attorney Bill Kelly attended Tuesday night’s meeting to discuss a number of options councilors could pursue.

The first option would be for the city to adopt a policy that deals with planting in city rights of way. However, a policy lacks the legal standing of an ordinance. The second option would be to enact an ordinance regarding rights of way, which would have the weight of the law behind it.

Kelly said a third option would be to issue a “revocable license” that would allow the city to alter any plans with 60 days’ notice, so the city could give permission to allow a private property owner to plant in a city right of way, but request at any time that those plantings be removed as long as it gives 60 days’ notice.

Kelly also noted that the Public Works Department can cut down or remove anything located in the city right of way.

In a letter read to the City Council by Larry Jones, who represents the Obergs, the proposal to plant arborvitae in the city right of way was withdrawn.

City Councilors voted in favor of denying the arborvitae plantings and agreed to address the issue of crafting a policy regarding city right-of-way usage in the future.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.