Tree-Cutting Violation By New Property Owners Sparks Call For Tougher Penalties
Douglas city officials and at least one local resident are upset over the unauthorized, surreptitious, nighttime clear-cutting of trees on a private residential lot.
“As a tree hugger, I am shocked at the $50 carnage of the land,” said long-time local resident Heather Barton during the Douglas City Council meeting Monday about what she feels is a negligible price to pay—a $50 city civil infraction fee— for the cutting down of 16 trees without a permit.
Douglas Mayor James Wiley said he was equally disappointed.
“They have completely destroyed and massacred the trees,” he said. “Somebody went in there during the weekend at night to do this, at great peril to other trees and homes.”
City officials announced they would issue the civil infraction on Monday when they made it a condition—the payment of it—of the property owners’ request for consolidation of two lots.
Laura Peieson and Julia Bizzis want to combine 179 and 175 Schoolhouse Lane—located off of Union Street, some two blocks east of Douglas Elementary School—into one lot to build a house.
The conditioned consolidation was approved in a four-to-two vote Monday, with Mayor Wiley and Douglas City Council Member Neil Seabert voting against the measure.
“I will never vote in favor of this consolidation until they come up and explain this (clear-cutting) to the council,” said Wiley.
Douglas Community Development Director and Zoning Administrator Lisa Imus told council the problem was the owners did not obtain a tree-removal permit or had a site-plan review which is required for the construction of the house.
“It’s their right (to cut trees),” Imus noted, “But because they (the general contractor) didn’t have a survey, more trees (7 to 8 more) were removed than otherwise had to.”
“They had everything done backwards,” she added about the development process and required permits.
Barton, a nearby neighbor of the consolidation property, said Matt Balmer, a current Douglas Planning Commission member and former mayor of the city, said they were equally concerned about what happened.
They are appealing to council to probe into whether or not the city could avail itself of another rule in the books that would result in a stricter penalty.
City staff said they would look into the matter.
“When that investigation takes place, and if the city finds nothing, maybe council should think about creating one (a harsher penalty) for the future,” said Douglas City Council Member Kathryn Mooradian.