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City Stumped: What’s The Difference Between A Statue And A Stump?

Cheyenne residents were upset when they learned that City of Cheyenne officials had sent a notice of violation to a homeowner at the corner of Warren and 3rd Avenues demanding that she remove a cottonwood tree stump that is located in the City’s right-of-way. According to the Cheyenne Urban Forestry Division’s Assistant Director, “in the case of stumps, it’s often an aesthetic issue when the stumps need to be removed. City regulations require the stump to be removed and ground up to a depth of 8 inches.” However, the landowner claims that her stump is special because she had it carved into a statue. So is it a stump or a statute? And a quick look around Cheyenne raises an even more fundamental question, should it even make a difference?

Each of these photos was taken from the public right of way in Cheyenne of items that were within a few feet of a public street. Can you tell the difference between a stump and a statue? At least one of the four photos is of something paid for using taxpayer money. Two others were presumably paid for with private funds. So what makes the resident’s statue (or stump) illegal while other statues are permitted, or even specially purchased?

In fact the Cheyenne’s Forestry Division regulations and specifications say, “Any public rights-of-way trees to be removed must have remaining stumps removed to at least eight inches below the normal ground level unless special authorization by the director of forestry is granted. All surface roots within three feet of the tree trunk will be removed to a depth of eight inches below the existing ground surface.” See: Cheyenne city code § 12.16.070(G)(3)(p)

The City of Cheyenne has used taxpayer money since 2001 “to purchase visual works of art to be installed and displayed in any outdoor city-owned area” under its Art in Public Places program. Clearly, private citizens are willing to place sculptures or statutes of native wild animals along public sidewalks at their own expense. Why does the City prevent them from doing so, and then use taxpayer money to do the same thing? Public art should be encouraged by making it easy, not discouraged.

Apparently the City is stumped when it comes to the difference between a stump and a statue. In that case, it should get out of the aesthetics business. That would be an easy first step. The City claims art in public places will “encourage and enhance artistic expression and appreciation and will add value to the community.” There is precedent for artwork along sidewalks honoring those who have passed on. The elk statue is next to the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks building and was donated in memory of two men and other “absent members.” According to the landowner, the bear is simply a tribute in honor of her own late husband. The Urban Forestry Director even has the clear authority to leave the bear statue (or stump) alone. Therefore, the mayor’s wise decision to quickly rescue the bear from an overzealous enforcement officer did not violate the rule of law.

Maybe the problem is that the bear doesn’t have a sign explaining the work like the City’s “Fast Food”: sculpture does? Perhaps the City needs the plaque, as the town’s chief art critic, since it can’t tell the difference between a stump and a statue.

Citizens should ask city councilors and the mayor about using taxpayer money to buy statues while the City harasses private citizens who do the same thing next time they are out on the stump.

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Sunday, 26 March 2017
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