Springfield church may face fines after cutting trees in historic area

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Springfield church violates city code

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A Springfield church could face fines after allegedly violating the city’s municipal code by cutting down trees in a historic district without first going to a review board.

Dove Pentecostal Assembly sits at the corner of South Fountain Avenue and East Pleasant Street in the South Fountain Historic District. It made cut down several trees on its property recently, causing the city to send an order to abate a violation on July 6.

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City codes state that the owner of a property within a historic district must apply to the Springfield Historic Landmarks Commission prior to making any changes to the exterior of their home or building, including trees.

Dove Pentecostal Assembly Pastor Elzie Moore said he didn’t receive a letter from the city and didn’t know it was a violation to remove the trees. The church wanted to remove them because he said they were causing structural damage, including to the church’s foundation and sidewalks.

“We had drainage that was stopped up and it was causing an area to overflow and go into our church,” Moore said.

Moore believed the historic district rules only applied to structures, not landscaping, he said.

The city’s violation letter orders the church to submit an application letter and plans to the landmarks commission.

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“We’ll have the church to apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness, which will tell us why they removed the trees,” said Bradley Minerd, chairman of the landmarks commission.

The commission will have a discussion with the church about what it would like to see done based upon the violation, Minerd said.

“It could mean us asking them to plant new trees,” he said. ” Or that could mean us saying that we disagree with the removal of the trees and the city would proceed the violations thereof or we could say, ‘We agree that’s fine.’”

The board can level civil fines if the church doesn’t comply with its orders.

The goal of the landmarks commission is to preserve the historic nature of the neighborhood, Minerd said.

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“Part of that includes any external changes, any mature tree changes, some landscaping does fall under that,” he said.

Stephen Chirico lives on South Fountain. He agrees only with the district’s rules about changes to houses.

“(But) I believe that telling someone how to landscape their yard is a bit intrusive,” Chirico said. “At some point, the property owner needs to have some say over his property and I think it’s a bit much to tell what they can plant and where they can plant it.”

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