A neighborhood in Belle Meade is buzzing after discovering more than a dozen 100-year-old trees were chopped down in a neighborhood park. Several stumps and plots can be seen where trees once stood in Harding Park.
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The council member for that area said Metro Codes messed up, and she has the documentation to prove it.
"When the chain saws started cutting down the trees, I got about eight phone calls," said Councilwoman Emily Evans.
Harding Park is privately owned by Harding Academy. The school cut the trees down Friday after getting a tree removal permit from Metro Zoning Administrator Sonny West.
"All of a sudden, Harding comes along and says, 'We'd like to continue working on this 2003 plan,'" said West. "I said, 'OK, here it is, trees to be removed.'"
But Evans said granting the permit solely on a site plan was a mistake because of past litigation decisions.
"A tree removal permit had been issued in 2003 and then revoked because it wasn't consistent with the Metro Code that says a Metro park, a private park, has to be maintained in a natural state," said Evans.
At issue is the definition of "natural state" -- something that happens to not be defined in the Metro code.
"Trees are fair game today under the code," said West.
But in a letter West wrote in 2006, he said, "All plant material (trees and shrubs) should be left undisturbed with the exception of weeds, vines and non-native material."
"It is my opinion, and I have shared this with Metro, that a couple of phone calls should have been made to clarify exactly what the record actually showed here," said Evans.
West said he stands by his permit.
"I regret the school didn't tell the neighbors what they were fixing to do. Should I have done that? Maybe in retrospect," he said.
Evans said the school is planning to plant more trees around the park's perimeter to make up for the ones that were cut down.
She said she may look at a proposal to clarify the language of the code so this doesn't happen again.