‘A significant failure:’ Trees removed without informing Dayton residents

Some residents of Old North Dayton voiced frustration and outrage after 17 trees on a residential street were chopped down to relocate power lines from a nearby thoroughfare.

Valley Street by Dayton Children’s is being reconstructed, and the plan was for Dayton Power & Light to move some overhead electric lines to Rita Street, an intersecting residential boulevard.

About 17 trees, some of which were more than 100 years old, were cut down along Rita Street to make way for electric poles and wires as part of the project, neighbors say.

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Neighbors were not informed of the relocation plans until the trees were already removed and the project moved forward without proper input from impacted neighbors and appropriate planning and permitting, said Matt Tepper, president of the Old North Dayton Neighborhood Association.

Neighbors objected to losing the trees and having “ugly” power lines go up that hurt the aesthetics of the boulevard.

The Old North Dayton Neighborhood Association on Tuesday declared that the installation of overhead power lines on Rita Street is unacceptable, and nine residents and property owners this week attended the Dayton City Commission meeting to urge the city to put the relocation project on hold.

The overhead power lines on Valley Street should remain in place or be buried, said Tepper, who has raised the issue at three consecutive city commission meetings.

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“Clearly, there are many unresolved issues to be addressed before activity along Rita Street can continue,” Tepper said.

Dayton commissioners and city leaders at the meeting apologized and promised to avoid similar issues in the future.

“This was a significant failure to not directly communicate the project to the impacted property owners or communicate it well enough so people understood what the plan was,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein. “I’ve had conversations with staff, and CityWide staff in particular, so that we correct that in the future.”

City staff have been instructed not to sign off on projects unless they can prove that impacted property owners have been communicated with, Dickstein said.

“The project is on hold right now,” she said. “There are no plans to move forward with the plan as discussed on Rita Street.”

The plan now is to put the lines through alleys or existing utility infrastructure to avoid impacting Rita Street, officials said.

“We heard the neighborhood loud and clear to not put lines on Rita Street, and we understand their concerns,” said Katie Lunne, community development specialist with CityWide, one of the partners on DaVinci Project, which seeks to improve Old North Dayton. “We want to find a solution that is more appropriate.”

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