Lawrence considers spending $58,000 to save massive tree

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The city of Lawrence has worked out an agreement in principle to protect a massive Bur Oak Tree from potentially falling victim to development. It would cost them $58,000.

A subdivision planned for nine homes is going in on 12th Street between Brook Street and Haskell Avenue. As the developer, STRUCT/RESTRUCT, went through the zoning process, the city worked out a conservation easement to make sure the tree wouldn't be cleared in the development.

“Since then both the developer and city have thought about it some more and have decided that conservation easement is not going to be enough to fully protect the tree that’s when the conversation led to the actual purchase of the lot that the tree sits on," Brandon McGuire, assistant to the Lawrence city manager said.

That ninth plot of of the subdivision is the one closest to Brook Creek Park. Experts have told the City of Lawrence it would likely qualify as a State “second champion” tree because of its height, width and age, perhaps up to 150 years old.

Lois Anne Brockman believes the city should stick with the conservation easement and hope the roots aren’t disturbed.

“I think they could still build a house and keep the tree, because when I lived up street we had trees all around our house," she said.

Serenna Beebe balked at the price.

“There’s 58 other reasons I could think of how to spend that money in the city, homeless, we have schools that need work, after school programs for kids that could probably use that money, lot’s of other things besides a tree.”

“There’s always competing priorities for tax dollars, there’s only so much to go around, I think that we’ve heard preservation of natural resources is a priority for the community," McGuire said.

“Though it sounds like a lot of money I support the decision to buy the land around the tree buy the plot around the tree and save it in the development,” Gary Webber said.

The land purchase agreement still needs full council approval. It was tabled June 6th, when one councilwoman expressed concerns about 2.3 additional acres of land the developer planned to donate to the city. It's in a flood plain and there are concerns it could have been contaminated by a nearby salvage yard.