Wells Fargo on Patton removes “Treasured Tree” that blocked new sign

Wells Fargo on Patton removes “Treasured Tree” that blocked new sign-attachment0

Asheville-area citizens stand by their trees, as Shannon Tuch, assistant director at the city’s planning department can confirm.

When a contractor for the new Wells Fargo bank branch at Patton and Louisiana Avenues cut down the mature trees blocking the company’s new sign recently, Tuch says she started hearing “a lot of outrage from the community.”

The trees that were cut included a “treasured tree,” designated by Asheville Greenworks, a local nonprofit whose volunteers work to keep Asheville clean and green. It seems the former tenant at this location — Wachovia Bank — had accepted the informal designation for the 50-foot English oak that fronts Patton some years ago. But being a “treasured tree” does not convey permanent protection, says Tuch; rather, since it’s a voluntary designation, Wells Fargo was not compelled to recognize the tree’s status when it took over the property.

By city ordinances that spell out the minimum number of trees commercial properties must maintain, the oak, along with some mature cherry trees Asheville Greenworks had planted years ago, was supposed to remain in place, according to Tuch. Her office prepared a notice of violation, complete with a $2,900 fine — only to discover that another city office was close to issuing a permit to Wells Fargo to remove these same trees. The bank wanted to remove vegetation located in the North Carolina Department of Transportation right-of-way along Patton, and it found an ally in the state agency because the trees were growing into DOT’s traffic signal wires.

“The permit to remove and replace the trees was close to approval, pending some additional information that was needed.,” Tuch says. “But the contractor went ahead and removed the trees — before they had received their permit.” Yet in the face of DOT involvement, according to Tuch, the city revoked the violation and fee against Wells Fargo.

Tuch acknowledges that trees are in limited supply on Patton Avenue. “The requirement is that you provide one tree for every 40 linear feet of frontage, unless you have obstructions like overhead power lines, and then it’s a small tree every 30 feet; but we allow them to space those trees irregularly” to accommodate signs and similar obstructions. “No doubt about it,” Tuch says, “people prune and remove trees because they think they’re obstructing their signs and their buildings, so I would not be surprised if that was the case here.” Plus, she says, the city has “limited control over what happens in the DOT rights-of-way.”

Susan Roderick, director of Asheville Greenworks, says this incident has called attention to the need to reinvigorate the Treasured Trees program.

“I always enjoyed seeing that tree,” Roderick says. “I guess I just sort of took it for granted.” As for Wells Fargo, “They’re not concerned about trees,” says Roderick. “They’re concerned about everyone seeing their sign.” Wells Fargo did not return calls for comment.

Roderick says she’s talking with the Tree Commission now about how to carry the Treasured Tree designation forward, even when properties change hands; there’s also a nascent idea to map the special trees in the Asheville community, targeting those cared for by the city arborist. Roderick says the goal would be to develop a tree inventory, to which local experts and citizens could contribute and help carry such information forward indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Roderick mourns: “I wish the city sign ordinance didn’t allow such big signs.”

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15 thoughts on “Wells Fargo on Patton removes “Treasured Tree” that blocked new sign

  1. john johnson

    i think even if the dot was envolved the contractor had o riht to go ahead with out a permit he was working for wells fargo not working for dot all contractors know you have to have a permit what if the permit was turned down e woul not be able to replace the trees

    • thefishman42

      In order to remove the trees, the NCDOT has to approve the removal. If you are replacing the trees back on NCDOT property, you have to have an encroachment letter from NCDOT and a permit from the city. If you replace the trees on Wells Fargo’s property, you do not have to heve permission from the NCDOT.

  2. David

    I’m for boycotting Wells Fargo!!
    They don’t need a large sign. Wachovia was doing just fine in the same location with the tree in place……just big business flexing it’s muscles, hey Asheville flex back, stay out of the damn bank!!!!!!

  3. Christopher C NC

    Not to nit pick, but this is hardly an old tenant new tenant change of hands scenario. Wells Fargo bought Wachovia lock stock and barrel when it was about to go belly up several years ago during the unfortunate financial disaster caused by banks too big to fail. What? Now they are getting bigger. That should help prevent future unfortunate financial disasters.

    Wells Fargo has owned that tree for the last three years or so and they can’t afford to pay an arborist. Too complicated. Too expensive.

  4. Barry Summers

    Baloney. They wanted an unobstructed view of their ugly new sign when the changeover occurred, like that would be something we would be excited about. I have to sit at the stoplight at that barren corner several times a day now, and it just sucks.

    One more reason not to give your money to Wells Fargo.

    • thefishman42

      I sit there too and i’m tickled that I don’t have to look at the ugliest tree in WNC anymore!!!! I know that the Wells Fargo sign is just as ugly, but that was the wrong tree in the wrong place. Besides, by city ordinance, they will replace the tree.

  5. dpewen

    Sorry the trees are gone but do any of you really have a bank account? Why didn’t Clair chain herself to these trees??

    • Barry Summers

      I closed my personal and business accounts at that Wachovia several years ago, and gave my business to a local bank. I urge everyone else to, as well.

  6. Jason Ross Martin

    At what point does a property owner get to make his or her own determination about what kind of vegetation is in the best interest of his or her business? Yes, old trees are aesthetically pleasing to many people, but in my view this is yet another example of government employees who are drawing a salary of public tax money for a dubious enterprise of criticizing a property owner’s opinion about what is appropriate and conducive to business.

    • Barry Summers

      It wasn’t just the “old tree” they cut down. They dropped two healthy, young, beautiful cherry trees too. Just because they may have distracted from their butt-ugly new sign.

      And we have all sorts of reasons to have requirements on vegetation. We require property owners not to let their grass grow into a field of weeds, because it becomes an eyesore, a fire hazard, and a breeding ground for rodents. In some states, it’s against the law to plant kudzu.

  7. Dionysis

    “At what point does a property owner get to make his or her own determination about what kind of vegetation is in the best interest of his or her business?”

    When the larger community, in which they are but one small component, deems their ‘determination’ to be adverse to the community.

    Wells Fargo has aleady flounted the rules they were supposed to adhere to with respect to the payback of taxpayer subsidy and has joined three other greed-driven national banks (one of which, SunTrust, still owes taxpayers 4.84 billion) to further pummel the taxpayers who put their own money in their bank by way of the $60 per year debit card ‘fee’.

    “Federal regulators bowed to pressure from big banks seeking a quick exit from the financial bailout program and did not uniformly apply the government’s own conditions set for repaying the taxpayer funds, a new watchdog report says…

    The report focused on the sales of stock to raise capital and bailout repayments by four major banks: Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., which each received $45 billion from the government; Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion; and PNC Financial Services Group Inc., which got $7.6 billion.

    Because the regulators failed to enforce the policy for repayments set by the Federal Reserve, the new report says, “the process to review a TARP bank’s exit proposal was … inconsistent.” That policy required banks to issue at least $1 in new common stock for every $2 in bailout money they repaid.

    But the banks doggedly resisted the regulators’ demands to issue common stock, seeking instead to use cheaper and “less sturdy” alternatives such as selling assets or issuing preferred stock, the report found. Issuing common stock is a better way to shore up a bank’s capital base, it said.”

    http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-09-30/news/30247905_1_tim-massad-bailout-money-troubled-asset-relief-program

    This is the kind of stuff that animates the ‘Occupy’ movement. Removal of a tree may seem to be of no significance, but it is emblematic of the pompous, ‘we run the show’ attitude of these corporate entities.

  8. Josh B.

    Does the removal of this tree affect the community at large? Yes, most emphatically so. It provides shade. It provides beauty. It provides clean oxygen and removals harmful CO2 from the air. All of these benefits spill well off the property line of Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo did not plant that tree. It was planted by who knows way back when, but has since become a piece of the community. Since the decision to remove the tree affects everyone in the community, everyone in the community needs to have a say in that decision. If you want to live in a world where every individual in a community has absolutely no responsibility to every other individual in that community to behave in a way that is mutually beneficial, then you can live on a desert island where your actions have no impact on anyone but yourself. If you want to live in an actual community, and enjoy the benefits of living in that community, then regardless of where your property lines are drawn you still have a responsibility to that community. To act otherwise is contrary to any and all semblances of common law going back thousands of years, not to mention just downright ornery, self-centered, and immature.

    If, however, you decide to hold a massive bonfire of all your Ayn Rand books such as “Atlas Shrugged” (otherwise known as “How to be a Completely Self-Centered Asshole and Win Lots of Enemies”) on your property, I’m sure the community at large will wholeheartedly support that decision.

  9. Shagbark Hickory

    Did I miss something?
    They didn’t yet get approval from the D.O.T. thus their tree removal activities were unlawful.

    I don’t have a problem with big signs but rules is rules and they broke the rules. They deserve to be fined and add this to the long list of reasons their executives should be dragged into court in leg irons.

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