Years ago, the downtown committee for the City of Thomaston developed a plan to beautify the square. Among the projects was the planting of crepe myrtle trees along the sidewalks on all four sides.
Today, those trees have grown, and apparently the store owners on the square are not happy with them. During the public comment portion of the Thomaston City Council meeting on August 21, Lisa Ryals presented the council will a petition signed by all 15 business owners on the square requesting that the trees be removed and a new design for the square be done.
Ryals, owner of Split Endz Salon, is planning to move her business to 117 Gordon Street on the square, the former Reems location between English’s Café and Allie David Formal Wear. She came to the council asking them to look at the situation.
“The problem I’m having and everybody else seems be having is the same: the trees in front of all the businesses are blocking our signs, where we cannot put our signs up and have them be visible to our customers,” said Ryals.
She said that she met with the city’s Tree Board, and they agreed to trim the trees, but it did little good. Ryals added that due to the construction of the building, she can’t put her sign up higher, and that she is wanting to have the same advantage of advertising her business that those stores which don’t have trees in front of them have.
“We don’t want to take out the beautification of downtown. We do want it to be beautiful, but we want it to be functional, also, for the businesses and for the customers,” said Ryals. “ The only thing I can think of is having the trees removed and something shorter put there, that maybe kept its color year round and not be such a mess. The awning behind the tree in front of the jewelry store is being ruined by the sap that comes out of the tree. It’s beginning to look run down.
“I grew up here,” she added. “I really want to bring downtown back. I’m not against it being pretty, but I just want all my people to be able to find me.
“If we did a crepe myrtle bush, it might work better,” suggested Ryals. “This is a crepe myrtle tree. If we did like what they’ve done at TUAC and what they’ve done at Traditions, and made it all uniform that way, because Traditions is completely visible – their awning, their sign, their doorway – it is beautiful. Everybody would have the same advantage.”
Mayor Hays Arnold stated that before the trees were planted, they constantly received complaints about the way the square looked.
“In the past, we have constantly had people coming to us and hammering us about looking like Madison, GA, being like Peachtree City, being like Newnan, GA,” said Arnold. “They bring up these communities that are beautiful communities and want us to look like these folks, but if you visit those places and take a look at them, every one of them have trees planted along their streets and along their areas. And in every case, they’re not in front of every single business, because the density would be entirely too much. So they have to disperse the trees like the architect did here.”
The council suggested the Ryals go back to the Tree Board. They replied that they had already gone to the Tree Board and been told the Tree Board did not have the authority to remove the trees or do any more than trim them.
City Attorney Joel Bentley advised the Ryals that since this was the public comment portion of the meeting, the council was not prepared to take action.
“The way it would come before us, is you would go before the Tree Board and formally request action be taken by the Tree Board,” said Bentley. “If they deny your request, I believe you would have the right to ask us to overturn their decision. But if the downtown business community does not like the tree, perhaps you should get on the Tree Board agenda to request that they completely revamp the trees that are in the downtown area, and either they make a recommendation to the City Council on how they recommend that it be changed, or an alternative is, if they decide they do not want to do that, then you come back before the council as an agenda item.”