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For the week of May 17 through May 23, 2000

Ketchum tree trauma

Seven towering spruce trees removed to make way for homes

"We want to preserve quality trees that are of benefit to the neighborhoods."

-Peter Ripsom,
  Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission chairman

Express Editor

arborcideStumps are all that are left of seven spruce trees felled on Friday to make way for three homes on a big Ketchum lot along Third Avenue. Express photo by Ron Soble

Seven spruce trees—which a Ketchum resident called "some of the oldest, biggest trees" in the city—were cut down Friday morning to make space for the construction of three homes.

"It was heartbreaking to see them all come down," said Stacey Sholtis, who lives near the residential project along Third Avenue between First and Rivers streets.

Sholtis, 39, a Ketchum native, said she attempted to stop the tree cutting, but to no avail. Eight spruce trees on the big lot were left alone.

"They were all healthy," said Pat Rainey, owner of Alpine Tree Service of Hailey, which felled and mulched the approximately 60-foot-tall trees. "They were just in the wrong place."

The homes’ architect, Jim Ruscitto of Ketchum, said he "spent six months trying to figure out designs to work around [the trees]," but finally threw in the towel.

The three two-story homes, he said, will be approximately 4,000 square feet in size and are second residences constructed by out-of-state owners.

Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission chairman Peter Ripsom said the city doesn’t have a tree ordinance.

"Anyone can cut a tree down anytime they want," he said in a telephone conversation, with the exception of trees in certain areas such as mountain overlay and riparian zones. "We do not have a tree ordinance to protect existing trees."

Ripsom said, however, he’d like to see "an ordinance preserving [certain] trees in healthy condition." He said he’s suggested such language in the city’s developing comprehensive plan.

"We want to preserve quality trees that are of benefit to the neighborhoods," he said.

Doug Webb, a Ketchum-based landscaping contractor who was in charge of the tree removal project, said that because of the size of the trees, which may be about 50 years old or more, they couldn’t be replanted.

"God, it’s too bad," Webb said of the plight of the trees in a telephone interview.

Architect Ruscitto said 28 new spruce trees would be planted on the lot—four mature trees up to 30 feet in height, the others about 14 feet high.

As for Sholtis, she said she was wearing sun glasses on a cold, overcast day because her eyes were red from crying.

"It’s a shame," she said, pointing to a pile of stripped tree trunks. "Everyone needs to be aware of what’s happening."


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