For more than 20 years, Lexington's Corridors Committee has used taxpayers' money to plant trees along some of the main roads coming into the city.
But the way some of those trees have been disappearing from Nicholasville Road is raising questions about how the city manages its street trees.
Most of the trees on Nicholasville Road apparently were planted in the 1990s.
Last year, a row of trees was cut down in front of a small commercial development near the intersection with Larkin Drive.
More recently, on the other side of the road, seven of 11 trees were cut down in front of a new development going in between Moore Drive and Regency Point Path.
The city's building inspection department says it is aware of both cases and is working with the owners to replace at least some of the trees.
But because city ordinances don't require as many trees as the Corridors Committee planted, fewer will go back in.
The missing trees have caught the attention of the city's Tree Board.
"I just feel like there is total disregard for trees in this town," said Karen Angelucci, who is chairwoman of the board. "If they are in the way, cut them down. If they block your sign, cut them down."
On the Larkin Drive side of Nicholasville Road, there is a line of 16 blackened stumps, then a second row where three or four trees were.
Basem Hishmeh owns the small development in a corner of the Kmart parking lot that contains an eyeglasses store, a dentist's office and other businesses.
Hishmeh said last week that the trees blocked the visibility of his property from the street and were getting into overhead power lines.
The Corridors Committee gave him permission to take out the longer row, which is closer to the street. A Kentucky Utilities crew did the removal, Hishmeh said. He had the shorter row, which was on his property, cut down.
The committee said the trees should be replaced. That hasn't happened yet because of bad weather last year, Hishmeh said. The planting will happen this year, he said, but it will follow the rules that don't require as many trees as were cut down.
Dr. David Stevens, a former Urban County Council member who is chairman of the Corridors Committee, said he wasn't happy that the trees haven't been replaced.
He said he agrees with Angelucci that stronger rules are needed.
The situation on the other side of the road is murkier.
The trees that were cut down there are in front of what will be a Raising Cane's fast-food restaurant and several other businesses. One is Howard Curry Shoes, which is moving from Southland Drive and taking along its famous Talking Tree (not a real tree) that has greeted customers since 1948.
Todd Stockwell, the president of Curry's Shoes Inc., said his company bought the property last year and sold a portion of it to Raising Cane's about six weeks ago.
Stockwell said he was told that when the company that is building both his building and the Raising Cane's got a permit, it was told that there were so many trees in the back of the property that some of the trees along Nicholasville Road could come down.
Dewey Crowe, Lexington's director of building inspection, was skeptical of that claim.
"We wouldn't have been telling them they could take out trees that the Corridors Committee planted, although as far as we can tell, there's no restriction against it," Crowe said.
The issue of trees along Nicholasville Road, and other streets in Lexington, might get an airing before the Urban County Council.
After the Herald-Leader started asking questions last week, Susan Straub, Mayor Jim Newberry's press secretary, called Angelucci and urged her to bring the matter to the council. That could be done through Councilwoman Andrea James, who also is on the tree board.
"We just need to bring it up to council and have it resolved, because trees are very important," Straub said.