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Committee members say they did not agree to tree clearing

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http://mobi.timesdispatch.com/richmond/db_309779/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=AuJ9AfxB

Committee members say they did not agree to tree clearing

Members of one of the two panels that the city administration has said signed off on plans that removed more than 100 trees from the site of the Redskins training camp said Thursday that they were not aware they were agreeing to the clear-cutting of the property.

After a review of site plans for the $10 million training camp facility now being built off West Leigh Street behind the Science Museum of Virginia, members of the city’s Urban Design Committee said they did not realize the plans they were shown late last year necessitated leveling the site, formerly home to a wooded public park area.

“This committee was told nothing significant would be removed,” said member Claire Shirley. “It was a misunderstanding.”

Shirley said the committee was told the western edge of the 17-acre parcel owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia would remain a public park and added that it was not clear that the park piece would have to be rebuilt after the trees were cut down.

Though she said the Redskins facility, which is being built as part of an economic-development deal between the city and Bon Secours Richmond Health System, will be a “great addition” to the city, she would not have voted to approve the plans knowing all the trees were to be removed.

Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones has said the plans for the site were revamped in October in light of a planned expansion by the Science Museum of Virginia and were approved by the Urban Design Committee and the city Planning Commission. The shift in the configuration of the site in those plans necessitated the tree-clearing, the city has said.

During the Urban Design Committee’s review Thursday of the features of the training camp facility — including lighting, landscaping, parking, orientation and building materials, among other details — Andrew Gould, an engineer with the Timmons Group, said it was “never our intent” to mislead the committee as to what would happen to the trees, adding that the firm regrets the misunderstanding.

Though Shirley took some responsibility for not delving fully into the details, another committee member, Hampton Carver, said she was being “too gracious.”

At a Tuesday meeting to solicit public input for the future park at the site, Carver said the committee was focused on different elements of the plan.

“It’s a tight time-frame project and there was a whole lot of pressure to get shovels in the ground,” Carver said.

He added that the furor over the loss of the trees underscored the importance of getting public input on developments involving public land.

Final approval of the Redskins site and building plans will head to the Planning Commission Feb. 19.

rzullo

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Written by vaphc

February 8, 2013 at 11:24 am

Posted in Local, Trees, Urban Forestry

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