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City gets update on Highway 29 tree issue

The city of Alexandria, a group of concerned business owners and the Minnesota Department of Transportation are trying to come up with a plan about what to do with the trees along the Highway 29 South corridor.

Business owners on the west side of the highway say the trees, when in full bloom, make it difficult for passing motorists to see their businesses.

The businesses, which include Tennessee Roadhouse, AmericInn Motel, Days Inn, McDonald's, Simonson Tesoro and Super 8, presented a petition to the Alexandria City Council in December. They want the trees and what they referred to as "swamp vines" removed or trimmed.

The city agreed to contact MnDOT to see what could be done. State Representative Torrey Westrom also sent a letter to MnDOT, asking them to address the business owners' concerns.

At the council's January 24 meeting, City Administrator Jim Taddei said that the city has received a letter from MnDOT that outlines the steps that need to be followed about the tree issue.

MnDOT also provided some background about the trees. A total of 232 trees were planted in the corridor in 1978 as part of a state project. They included 17 varieties, the majority of which were green ash, hackberry, poplar, spruce and pine trees.

"Looking back at the plan and the time period, the business climate in 1978 was very different from today," noted Lee Berget, MnDOT District 4 transportation engineer, in a letter to the city. "The purpose of the project was to blend the highway infrastructure into the surroundings and improve the aesthetics of the corridor."

Berget added that with significant business development in the area, it's understandable that the situation has changed. He outlined the steps that need to be taken to improve the business' visibility in the corridor:

• The cost of any vegetation control measures will be paid by the property owners.

• Any control measures will be carried out in a workmanlike manner.

• The city of Alexandria will prepare a vegetation management plan for the area of concern. This will include representatives from the MnDOT Forestry Unit and the business community. The plan must be approved by MnDOT District 4 before a permit can be issued for work in the right of way.

• The plan should include an inventory of the vegetation along the corridor, including the types of trees, maximum size at maturity, the effect on the businesses and their signs and whether the business was there before the trees were planted. The plan should examine options, such as raising or lowering signs, trimming or removing trees, and planting or replacing vegetation to improve the businesses' visibility and sustain the natural resources.

• The cost of the proposals in the plan will be the responsibility of the local businesses and/or the city. MnDOT would issue a permit for the work identified in the approved plan.

The council authorized Taddei to contact the business owners who petitioned the city and update them on MnDOT's letter.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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