Thursday, April 10, 2014

Save the Paradox Walnut Tree: 5024 SE Mill

Community Meeting:  April 23, 6-8 pm, Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church (at the corner of SE 55th and SE Belmont) in the Tabor Space dining hall upstairs.  The developer will be present to field your comments.

Twitter: @PDXParadoxTree

A developer (Steve Melkerson, 503-309-8137) has purchased three lots near the corner of SE 50th Avenue and SE Mill Street, with plans to demolish the three homes and replace them with a 14 unit housing complex.  The easterly most lot in this development has in one corner a rare and magnificent tree that is very old, remarkably healthy, and beautifully shaped.  As we dig into this case, we are learning this tree may have significant historic value as yet unrecognized (and therefore unregistered and unprotected).

The developer does not consider this tree to add value to his new development, and he plans to cut it down.  MTNA only found out about the threat to this tree a few days before demolition was scheduled. Melkerson is within his legal rights to cut this tree.  However, this significant tree would likely be preserved had another builder purchased this lot -- as this tree adds incredibly to the livability of this lot, and as the tree is located in the corner of the lot where it can be avoided, a builder who designs custom homes and remodels would most likely choose to keep the tree.

Actions to take:
Contact the builder (503-309-8137):  Encourage the developers to consider 1) creative designs that incorporate the tree into their development plans.  A shared community green space for the housing complex would add greatly to the livability of a complex that will otherwise be surrounded mostly by concrete, and 2) selling the lot with the tree to a builder that is prepared to preserve the tree with a site-specific, custom built project.

Contact City Council: Write them all, and make two requests.  1) review this case and 2) fund the tree codes.  Additionally, if you are concerned about tree protections in Portland you need to lobby your City Council NOW to fully fund and implement the "tree codes."  Do this with a direct email or call, or by attending the April 22, Community Budget Forum (6:30 pm, David Douglas High School, 1001 SE 135th Ave, 97233).

Click here for the preliminary construction plans.

Update 4-24-14:
     The developer announced new construction plans at the community meeting last night, and signed the Heritage Tree application for the Paradox Walnut.  If he indeed files these plans with the city, this tree is saved.  The two land use people here at MTNA would like to commend Steve with Caliber Homes for doing something difficult: he took a second hard look at the site, recognizing the tree as a specific feature worth protecting.
     A big tree brings responsibilities, and MTNA is looking into establishing a fund into which neighbors can donate to help future owners of the Paradox Walnut with care costs.  Stay tuned.
Update 4-16-14: The developer tells an Oregonian reporter that he will adjust his construction plan, so as to eliminate one building to make room for the tree.  If he indeed follows through on this declaration, it is a great improvement to the project and a great outcome.  We will remain cautiously optimistic until we see real paperwork filed with the city.  If Steve does make these project improvements, I think he should be considered a model builder, for his efforts to respect the neighborhood within which he builds.
Update 4-12-14: The developer informs MTNA volunteers that while he is exploring other options, his main focus is on the first proposal.  He still plans to cut the tree and build all 14 units.
Update 4-11-14: At least one local builder specializing in custom designs that can and will work an asset like this significant tree has contacted the developer to explore taking the lot off his hands.
Update 4-10-14: The developer is considering selling the lot to be rid of the public relations headache the tree causes.

History of this Tree:
Various members of the community have been researching the history of this tree, and as snippets of information arrive, I'll are post here.


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