AURORA | The “motor mile” of 25 dealerships and over 100 auto service businesses that line Havana Street in Aurora have a love-hate relationship with their trees.
The older lindens and pines common along the strip are known for dropping sticky sap on the cars for sale in the lots, and eating away the finish. Gayle Jetchick, executive director of the Havana Business Improvement District, said that when these trees deteriorate, it is the business owners that foot the bill to replace or remove them.
That bill can run thousands of dollars. Jacque Chomiak, an arborist with Aurora Parks, Recreation and Open Space, said that replacing one American Linden that is 15 inches in diameter costs nearly $4,000 alone.
Aurora has a tree mitigation policy that requires developers who are planning to remove trees to either replant them as approved by the city or pay into a tree mitigation fund.
Chomiak, along with the city’s Urban Forestry Manager John Wesolowski, said the goal is to have a net loss of zero trees when it comes to development because trees are difficult to maintain in Aurora.
“It’s easier to grow trees in Denver than here,” Wesolowski explained. “Aurora is classified more as a high plains desert than a prairie. Most trees that look mature have been growing for more than 20 years. We want to keep what we can.”
Wesolowski said the city maintains about 50,000 trees when counting its parks.
Businesses along Havana in Aurora have the additional option of designing a new streetscape using plants and trees from the BID’s approved xeriscape list.
Which is why Jetchick said she was thrilled to hear the Aurora’s Parks Department had approved a new xeriscape plan for AutoMart USA at 835 South Havana Street. The department deemed the dying trees hazardous, and will allow AutoMart to re-landscape the area with the city’s approval.
Jetchick said that since the property was purchased over a year ago by the car dealer AutoMart USA, the roots had grown so deep, they cut into the property’s sprinkler lines. AutoMart USA staff declined to comment on the details of their landscaping plan or the application they have submitted to city planning for the new landscaping.
City planners have long argued that tree-lined streets increase the visual appeal of a commercial corridor, a claim that has been backed by urban forestry studies. Weslowski added that on wide streets like Havana, which is also a U.S. highway, trees stop erosion and help keep the city’s storm water system from being overburdened.
“Trees are an asset to Aurora, and they should be considered infrastructure like streets,” he said.
Jack Tierney, who was the former owner of the AutoMart lot when it was Budget Car Sales, said the city’s reputation as being tough to deal with has shifted in recent years.
“Ten years ago, this city had the reputation of being the toughest in the state to deal with,” he said.