Council may next target elimination of downtown planters

The discussion was ostensibly about Graham’s downtown plan last week when Graham’s city councilmen met, but the councilmen soon strayed into a discussion about the downtown planters and whether they should remain.
The initial discussion was on sidewalks, which the consultants for a downtown plan last year recommended should be widened throughout the downtown area.

Also recommended by the consultants was to have additional trees planted in the downtown area. Councilman Chip Turner has been at the forefront of opposition to planting more trees, and he took aim also at the existing crepe myrtles that are the anchor for a dozen or more downtown brick planters that line the 100 block of West Elm Street and around Court Square.

Freestanding holly trees and dozens more crepe myrtles line other streets in the downtown area.

While Turner and councilman Ricky Hall, as well as mayor Jerry Peterman and council member Jennifer Talley, voiced opposition to the wider sidewalks and to eliminating or reducing parking around Court Square (total elimination had been the original recommendation of the consultants), discussion soon turned to the planters.

Peterman was the first to suggest maybe the city should consider “getting rid of the brick planters.” He suggested that perhaps some “mobile, moveable tree pods” could be substituted for the brick planters, an idea that drew interest from Talley. They
pointed to some smaller planters, though not mobile, near the register of deeds office.

Council member Melody Wiggins, however, has supported the wider sidewalks, and she targeted the utility poles which make walking access along the city sidewalks difficult.

Concerns about the brick planters seemed to center on two issues: the crepe myrtles, which city manager Frankie Maness termed a “high tech weed,” as the tree in the planters; and the brick planters themselves.

Maness said that the raised planters also necessitate more watering – and, Turner added, trees and plants dying during the heat of summer.

There are about 16 of the sidewalk planters that are bout 18 inches off the sidewalk. Meanwhile, another nine of so are lower to the ground, about 6 inches, and are tucked into various corners of the parking spaces around Court Square. Some have crepe myrtles, while others have holly trees.

The mayor has previously identified these Court Square planters as undesirable because they prevent the city’s street sweepers from being able to make a full sweep around Court Square.

Meanwhile, dozens more crepe myrtles and holly trees (without any planter) line other downtown streets, especially West Harden and North Main.

Maness said that another problem with the brick planters is the difficulty in finding brick masons to repair them. “It’s getting harder and harder,” he said, “to find brick masons to come out and do the work.”

No final action was taken, but the council may return to the issue either as a part of considering changes to the downtown plan or during budget season as members contemplate an alternative to the brick planters.