BG may trim back new tree ordinance
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel-Tribune Editor
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 10:13
Bowling Green City Council was not ready to go out on a limb Tuesday evening for a new tree ordinance.
Following lengthy discussion and comments from citizens, council voted unanimously to table the ordinance after its third reading.
The ordinance would give the city the right to order removal of dead or diseased trees on private property, if the trees pose a risk to life or property. The city arborist would have the authority to send notices to landowners, requiring that trees be removed at the owners' expense within 60 days. If the owner fails to comply, the tree can be removed by the city, with a lien then being placed on the property.
Residents Roger Anderson and Gary Hess spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance, stating the rule would help rid the city of hazards.
"There are a number of dead trees that have stood for years and should be taken down by the property owner," Anderson said.
Anderson compared the ordinance to the city rule on snow shoveling, which charges landowners for snow removal if they don't do it themselves.
However, resident Marc Brunner said the tree ordinance is different than the snow ordinance, since it could result in a bill of thousands of dollars.
Brunner suggested that the city continue to operate on the premise that neighbors deal with tree issues themselves - "a private transaction between neighbors."
"I don't understand where this is coming from. Why all the sudden," he said. "It's a solution in search of a problem."
Brunner called the ordinance "Draconian," and said it would be "an onerous burden to homeowners."
Hess said he favored the ordinance, and predicted it would only be used in cases of negligent homeowners.
"People will continue to deal with dead or diseased trees as they always have. They remove them," he said.
Ryan Holley objected to the timeframe in the ordinance, which requires that trees be removed in 60 days. He also suggested that the notices be sent to the landowner in cases of rental properties, rather than posted on the home's door.
City Attorney Michael Marsh explained that council requested that an ordinance be drawn up to deal with landowners who refuse to remove dead trees. He pointed out that the city administration was not in support of the new ordinance, but was acting upon council's request.
Upon discussion Tuesday evening, however, council members expressed their reservations about such an aggressive ordinance. Robert McOmber suggested that council try to reach a consensus on their goals, then see if the existing tree ordinance accomplishes those goals. Bruce Jeffers said he would like the ordinance to be used on a very limited scope, perhaps on a complaint basis. Sandy Rowland agreed that limited use would be preferred, and only if definite danger existed. Daniel Gordon suggested that the ordinance be tabled until council can work out philosophical and technical issues.
In other business, council:
• Went into executive session to discuss land acquisition, but took no action on the matter.
• Heard Oak Grove Cemetery is estimated to have about 10 years left of space.
• Held a general discussion prior to the council meeting about possible options for city administration building space.
• Learned that heavy trash pickup will be the week of Sept. 16.
• Observed a moment of silence for the loss of Joan Gordon, community leader.