The latest conflict of values between Salem Hospital and neighbors in the Gaiety Hill neighborhood was seen on Thursday, November 19, when the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission held a hearing on a proposed sidewalk expansion on South Church Street.

The proposed widened sidewalk would be part of Salem Hospital’s development of the former Oregon State School for the Blind as a rehab facility.

Neighbors who testified recommended the sidewalk not be expanded, in order to protect mature trees and a historic streetscape.  They argued that a widened sidewalk would compromise the root systems of fourteen trees, thirteen of which are mature 50-60 year old American Sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua).

Neighbors called on City code SRC 230.075(b)(2).  This code states that “Historic landscaped buffer zones, such as the grassy median between the sidewalk and the curb shall be preserved.”

Among the neighbors who commented was Patricia Deminna, who said, “I am opposed to any action that might undermine the trees’ health… “

“Just another invasion of this peaceful neighborhood,” said neighbor Sue Dauer.

Church Street resident Mary Fitzpatrick invoked Salem First Citizen Warren Carkin.  “Many years ago,’ she said, “Gaiety Hill resident Warren Carkin led the effort to have matching trees planted in the grassy median… The vision can be seen today in the green canopy that lines Church Street.”

On the evening of the hearing, the South Central Association of Neighbors’ (SCAN) Historic Preservation, Parks & Gardens Committee asked for a continuance so it could study a redesign.

The hearing will continue on December 17.