The subject of trees to be removed by the city came up several times in the Brentwood Board of Aldermen on Tuesday. On Dec. 23 the city removed a resident’s oak tree on Urban Avenue without notifying him, which upset him.
The resident, Doug Gruder, told the aldermen in the meeting that cutting down the 120-year-old oak (by his estimation) from his yard was “wrong and criminal”. He asked if a title search had been done to determine if the tree was in the city right of way. He said he has an attorney looking into that.
He questioned the city’s decision process.
“The city made the list of trees to be cut down in 2014, yet two years later my tree all of a sudden became a hazard? If it was a hazard back then, it sat that whole time, no damage to my property, no limbs fell on Pine. Then Peter Van Linn (city arborist) in 2016 in June made his report, and the tree still sat there. All of a sudden in December, now it’s a hazard. I don’t get it.”
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In response, Gruder’s aldermen, Sunny Sims and Brandon Wegge, both apologized to Gruder for the failure to notify him. Wegge said he has asked City Administrator Bola Akande to look into the notification process.
Mayor Chris Thornton said he also felt badly about the failure to notify to Gruder, but he said he stops short of apologizing.
“There seems to be an underlying assumption that had he received notice prior to the tree coming down something might have changed, and I just don’t believe that,” he said. “The judgement of the city, for good or for ill, was that that tree needed to be taken out, and it was taken out. And it would have been taken out regardless if Mr. Gruder had received three weeks notice.”
Thornton also said that Gruder had criticized him for not responding to him, but said Gruder had never contacted him, and he would talk to him if Gruder tried. He also said the city should reimburse Gruder for his past expenses to maintain the tree.
City attorney, Kevin O’Keefe, said the purpose of the notice is “for people to get their stuff out of the way.” The notice is motivated by the desire for public safety, he said.
The aldermen also discussed how a resident should be notified — whether a letter should be certified or registered, or sent at all. And if a tree should have a neon ribbon tied around it or have a letter taped to it.
They also discussed if a resident should be allowed to hire his own arborist, in addition to the city arborist and one from Davey Tree, for another opinion. Wegge said that would only lead to too many opinions, which wouldn’t be helpful. Alderman David Plufka questioned the impartiality of a Davey Tree arborist, which makes money from taking down trees. Alderman Kathy O’Neill, a Missouri Master Naturalist, said Davey is primarily a tree service company, not a tree removal company, and had a high opinion of the company.
The board made no decisions about trees or how to notify residents of tree removal.
Also in the meeting, Thornton said he was excited about a plan to solve the flooding problem on Manchester Road, but said he’s nervous because it’s a big project and would take dedication for a long period of time. He said it could involve companies being forced to move and a property tax. He plans to meet with the aldermen later in the month about the plan.
The board also approved a resolution to condemn a property on Hanley Industrial Court so the city could proceed installing a sidewalk. All other property owners have given the city an easement for a sidewalk there, but repeated attempts to contact this owner for his permission have failed, according to Thornton. Alderman Andy Leahy and others were against condemnation — Leahy cast the only ‘no’ vote. They hoped when the letter to condemn the property was served to the owner he would contact the city to give an easement.