Two downtown Benton business owners spoke at the Benton Community Services meeting Thursday night, asking the city to do something about the trees in front of their stores. Crape Myrtle trees lining the sidewalks of this historic section of town have been the topic of passionate discussion since the fall of 2019, when different business owners clashed about whether to keep them because they bring beauty, or cut them down because they are a nuisance. Video from the meeting is at the end of this article.
Jennifer Donnor of The Oil Shop at 111 N. Market St. and Jana Helton, who owns the properties at 115 & 119 N. Market St. addressed the committee.
Donnor stated that there was a group of Master Gardeners helping, but the maintenance lapsed. “They were growing into the awnings and doing damage to the businesses [downtown],” stated Donnor. “They were being cut every year and then they skipped last year – they just weren’t being managed at all, and so because of the damage to the awnings, we cut them back.
City Councilman Jeff Hamm offered advice on how to keep the trees, but Donnor stated that she couldn’t do it alone, due to the number of trees – around 50 of them – as well as the heavy iron grates that lay at the base of each tree.
Mayor Tom Farmer stated that the City would ask the Master Gardeners to return to maintenance of the trees.
Helton then addressed the committee, asking if a business owner had a choice of getting rid of a tree in front of their business.
In the end, the City did not make a decision about the trees, but resolved to look into the matter.