The Stacy City Council recently asked City Attorney Peter Grundhoefer and city maintenance staff to research the possibility of allowing property owners, by ordinance, to handle tree maintenance within city right of ways.
Grundhoefer was not comfortable with this request, citing not only safety concerns, but also aesthetic issues.
“By allowing homeowners to do this you may end up with a result you don’t want, like clear-cutting,” Grundhoefer warned. A proposed alternative would be to allow a property owner to trim in the right of ways and have city staff supervise.
Grundhoefer said the city is responsible for keeping the right of ways clear for traffic control.
He said he was concerned about a property owner damaging the right of way. He also said this could lead to issues over control of the right of way. Grundhoefer noted the city should oversee the process.
Mayor Mark Utecht favored the city handling maintenance and subsequently billing property owners.
“I still think that’s the best way,” Utecht said.
He agreed this would ensure safety during the trimming process and prevent clear cutting. Utecht had an example – an overgrown area at Fernwood and 307th Street.
Councilor Jim Ness said technically the property owner owns the land in the right of way, but asked, “If the owner does the work, what liability does the city have?”
Ness said he has a problem telling property owners the city will do trimming, but he couldn’t quote the cost to residents.
He added the bidding process isn’t very transparent.
Councilor Chuck Lucia preferred sending notice to property owners and letting those individuals choose to have the city come out, to hire a contractor or to do it themselves.
He said city staff could assist by going out and marking trees that must be taken down.
“The property owner is liable for the expense, it’s just a matter of how,” Utecht said.
The mayor cautioned of overextending the problem.
“If we were to clear all the right of ways in the city, it would completely change the look of the city,” he said. “Another meeting will be needed to address the right of way and citywide tree trimming issues.”