Brentwood resident Doug Gruder was still furious, pacing his front porch Monday morning, three days after employees of Davey Tree — authorized by the city of Brentwood — removed most of a 120-year-old oak tree in his front yard. He said he’s slept four hours since it happened.
He said he left for work at 7:15 Friday morning and came home to find most of the tree that once shaded his home gone. He was so upset he called Brentwood police. Chief of Police Dan Fitzgerald said Monday that they were called, but it’s a city hall, not a police matter.
“I’ve lived here 31 years. I loved that tree. It shaded my house. It gave me privacy. It was at least 120 years old,” Gruder said. “I just don’t get it. I can’t even imagine what their thought process was. It’s a muddy mess. They can’t replant grass now, they can’t replant a tree right now.”
Gruder said the city said it notified him by mail (mailed on Dec. 12); he said he never saw the letter. He said he can’t understand why the city didn’t make more of an effort to tell him his tree was slated to be removed.
At 4:02 a.m. Dec. 25 Gruder emailed a letter to his aldermen, city administrator Bola Akande and mayor Chris Thornton, copying Brentwood chief of police Dan Fitzgerald and officer Jeff Manestar.
On Monday he emailed it to 40 South News. All capitalization and underlining are Gruder’s. Gruder’s letter:
First and foremost I want to thank you and Sunny for your patience and help in listening, taking your time, and working with me during the Christmas weekend to resolve what to me is a very serious situation…. a very egregious breach and violation of my rights as a tax paying citizen and property owner in City of Brentwood. As both you and Sunny already know, I am quite distressed and passionate about what has happened and how it happened.
Attached are pictures from Google Maps prior to my removing the Ivy less than 2 years ago. Also attached is the tree as it was left on Friday. The Scarring that you see in the picture of the chopped tree that was left in my yard was done by Davey Tree. One can clearly see from the pictures that the tree was healthy in those pictures despite the Ivy which I had had removed which would only have added to the health of the Tree. One can also see that My Oak Tree sits clearly on my property in the middle of my front lawn. Also attached are my broken and discarded lights, my torn up yard, and a picture of the Sugar Gum in front of my home with Dig Right Flags.
I have lived in Brentwood for about 32 years, 31 of those years within the house I reside at now. I also operated and ran several businesses within Brentwood: Restaurant Installations Unlimited which was in Hanley Industrial Court for over 10 years and Applegate’s / Dickey’s. In all of those years Brentwood has made a few mistakes but nothing that has hurt and affected me as badly as this has.
The Oak Tree was a beautiful, old Oak Tree which was probably over 120 years old and as you can see from the pictures at least 60’ tall with limbs probably extending 30 to 40’ in diameter. It was classic and majestic. It gave my home curb appeal, privacy, and shade both on the south and west side of my home. It was also home to squirrels and birds.. the occasional owl and hawk. All of my Neighbors admired the tree and knew that I cared for it and that I maintained it.
Sunny Sims, my Alder Person, who lives around the corner from me, when talking to me on the phone Saturday morning said that when she drove home, past my house on Friday, she was shocked and dismayed as to what had happened to my tree. She expressed to me that she appreciated the tree and its beauty as she personally drives by it every day and could not understand why it was cut down!!! My entire neighborhood admired the beauty and grandeur of that tree because it was truly distinctive, magnificent, well maintained, and historically a part of the beauty of our little subdivision ironically called “Forest Hills”.
Forest Hills was originally built in an area that was home to a grove of many, many Oak Trees that had over the years, been removed for progress or because they had died. There was an Oak that was in my back yard that had been removed before I had bought the home. MY OAK TREE was one of the few Oaks still left. My Neighbor who lives on the corner of Brentwood and Pine was told by the Peter Van Lin of the City, that his Oak Tree was looked at by an Arborist and needed to come down… He brought in his own arborist in and the tree was deemed to be okay.
Trees with that kind of History and Grandeur should not just be arbitrarily cut down at the whim of some city employee. Trees such as MY OAK TREE should be looked at very carefully and preciously as they are a miracle. If there is any question as to the health of the tree they should be examined and all care should be taken to figure out how to maintain and or cure the tree. A Chainsaw is NOT a cure or a solution. I have never seen an arborist report in regards to MY TREE. I have never talked to anyone from the City of Brentwood in regards to MY OAK TREE other than in the last two days since it was brutally cut and hacked down, while I was at work, and behind my back through careless lack of forethought, proper communication, courtesy, decency, and consideration.
It’s easy to point to something that doesn’t belong to you, that you have no and zero investment in, that will not affect your life or home when you go home from your little bureaucratic office to your own home. City officials have NO RIGHT to play God so haphazardly with the people’s property just because they sit behind a desk and have a title. Don’t you think that on an issue as serious as the destruction of a 120 year old Oak Tree that clearly sits in a resident’s yard and on their property, not on the other side of a side walk, that under no circumstance, any action should have been taken until I was personally contacted in some way and that CONTACT WAS CONFIRMED!!!
Isn’t a 120 year old Oak Tree worth more than some simple letter (which I obviously never received), worth a phone call, worth a CERTIFIED LETTER, worth a knock on my door, worth several notices, worth notice of more than 2 weeks (I was subsequently told by you that the notice went out on the 12th of December), WORTH A FACE TO FACE CONVERSATION AND DISCUSSION, worth more effort and care?????
According to the City I was sent a notice (which I never received, which Brentwood made no effort to follow up to make sure I was aware of) that they were going to cut down a 120 or more year old Oak Tree in less than 2 weeks. Consider the absolute travesty and destruction of a Living Entity that was so carelessly and egregiously carried out!!
The tree, ever so slightly leaned, as all trees do, not towards the street, but towards my home. There was NO DANGER of the tree ever falling towards the street. The trees was NOT diseased!! It was NOT hollow. It was NOT termite, ant, Carpenter Bee, or worm infested. The Tree was healthy and abundant with leaves!!! (see the pictures) I have no idea who the arborist is who made his or her prognosis, however, if there was indeed an arborist hired, they were wrong (see pictures) and a second opinion should have been requested when determining the fate of such an Old Tree. When was the tree looked at? In the fall went it was barren of its beautiful foliage???? I should have had the option to hire my own arborist. CERTAINLY ANY DECISION MADE AFFECTS ME!! If the arborist was an employee of Davey Tree than that is a conflict of interest since Davey Tree is in the business of cutting trees down. Davey Tree makes their money from cutting trees down.
In the 31 years that I have lived at this home I have maintained MY Oak Tree MYSELF. In the 31 years I have lived here I have personally or professionally had the tree limbs cut back and pruned. Not once.. NOT ONCE in the 31 years that I have lived here, has the City of Brentwood raised one finger to cut down a single branch from MY tree. They never cut back any of the limbs that extended over Pine Ave. Not once has the City of Brentwood shown me or demonstrated to me in any way shape or form that MY TREE was their property, a City Tree, or their responsibility or on easement or right of way. In actuality Brentwood in both their inactions and actions have shown me just the opposite.
The only thing Brentwood has ever done in regards to MY TREE is to send me a Notification Letter in either 2014 or early 2015 asking me at my expense within a certain allotted time frame to cut back the dead branches that were overhanging Pine. During that time I was traveling full time for a living and when I came home and found the Notice, I immediately complied and paid to have the tree cut back and at the same time also paid to have all of the English Ivy Vines cut and removed from the tree. I loved that tree and I never had an issue paying to maintain it!
How can the City lay claims to MY TREE that they have never, in 31 years, had ever taken care of or made any effort to maintain? The tree clearly sits in the middle of my front lawn and not on Brentwood Property. There is no sidewalk on that side of my corner lot. Last year, when Brentwood’s salt trucks sprayed salt and ruined my grass that runs along Pine and turns down Urban, the very grass that lay between MY OAK TREE and the street. I paid my gardeners to have the contaminated dirt removed, new dirt brought in, and grass replanted between the tree and the street. Brentwood cannot take the position that I owned the tree and I was responsible for its upkeep and maintenance for 31 years and then all of a sudden Brentwood, on a tree cutting spree, claims the right of ownership of the tree or the right to cut the tree that they clearly never owned or maintained.
If Brentwood had ever owned the tree because of some supposed easement, that I do not believe exists, they certainly abandoned that right by never maintaining the tree and then on top of that, asking me to pay for the maintenance of the tree. Brentwood cannot have it both ways and that is what they have exactly asserted here and done by their actions in making me maintain MY TREE and then by their action of then cutting it down without my permission, the very tree they asked ME TO MAINTAIN!
WHAT WAS THE RUSH. WHAT WAS THE URGENCY? WHAT WAS UNSAFE? WHAT OR WHERE WAS THE IMMEDIATE AND IMMENENT DANGER TO LIFE OR PROPERTY? WHY ON A CHRISTMAS WEEKEND? THE TREE WAS NOT ABOUT TO FALL! WHAT DEEP AND DELICATE THOUGHT WAS GIVEN TO ANY OF THIS? IF THERE WAS SOME DEEP THOUGHT OR LOGIC INVOLVED IN THIS DECISION, I CERTAINLY DON’T SEE IT. WHAT WAS DONE IS CRIMMINAL AND DESTRUCTION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY!!!
My sister lives in Madison, Wisconsin and she told me that her city wraps a ribbon around all trees to be taken down by the city. Certainly had Brentwood been intelligent enough to have had that type of policy in place, I as other residents would know beyond a shadow of a doubt what the city’s intentions are!!! All that I saw were Dig Right Flags around a tree that the city has no intention of cutting down. The other trees slated to be cut down also have Dig Right Flags around them. Again.. there was no indication whatsoever that MY OAK TREE was on any type of list. Why was this list not sent to all residents? Why was there nothing posted on any of the trees or light poles? The city posts signs all the time for other reasons. Why did no one personally hang a notice on my front door? WHY…. WHY ….WHY?????
IN RESPONSE TO YOUR EMAIL:
- I never received any Letter or Notification from the City of Brentwood in regards to the removal of MY TREE. I was told by you only on Saturday the 24th that letters had gone out on the December 12th about Trees being cut down on Urban. You yourself told me today that you felt that a notice of less than two weeks was, in your opinion, not enough time or even PROPER notice. For me it was NO Notice because I never received it!!! I have not been out of town since June and I open and read all of my mail. Especially mail from Brentwood. I also maintain that my Oak Tree sits closer to Pine than Urban and there was NO signs whatsoever to give me any indication that Brentwood was considering removing MY TREE. Dig Right had placed flags around the sugar gum in front of my home on Urban there are none on Pine. The Sugar Gum tree clearly is a city tree. But since I had NOT received any Letter of Notification I had NO idea what the Dig Right Flags were for.
- Davey Tree failed to put any kind of Door Hanger on my front door. PERIOD!! IT WAS NOT DONE. Not 24 hours before they cut the tree and not even on the day they trespassed on my property and Killed MY OAK TREE!! When I came home on Friday at 3:00 I was in complete and total shock! When I got home I had to knock on neighbors doors to find out WHO.. What company cut MY OAK TREE down. I was absolutely devastated, in tears, and shaking… I was in such a state of shock and panic that I called the Brentwood Police for help! My neighbor across the street on Pine was home and he said it was Davey Tree. I called my House Keeper, Ann Witte, who comes every day to my house to let my German Shepherd out, to ask her who was at my home and who cut down my tree and she confirmed that it was two guys from Davey Tree. Sargent Jeffery Manestar of Brentwood Police can and will confirm the sequence of events of how we together discovered that it was Davey Tree. AGAIN… DAVEY TREE FAILED TO HANG ANY TYPE OF NOTICE OR DOOR HANG PRIOR OR AFTER CUTTING DOWN MY OAK TREE! I WAS NOT GIVEN ANY NOTICE WHATSOVER THAT MY OAK TREE WAS SCHEDULED TO BE REMOVED. Just one week prior, I was even on the phone with Bola Akande, with the City of Brentwood, in regards to the decorative grasses on the island across from my home that had been cut down in winter instead of spring. We also discussed the 60 year Sugar Gum Trees across the street from my home that had been cut down simply because a new resident had put in a request for them to be removed. I had expressed to her that I was upset about the trees being cut down around my neighborhood. Obviously I care!!! During that conversation she made NO mention to me that other trees on Urban Drive were earmarked to be cut down. And most certainly she made no mention about MY OAK TREE because she probably did not know about it.
- According to my House Keeper, Ann Witte, and my Neighbor across the street on Pine, there were only two men on site at my house removing my tree. Both were crew members. I sincerely doubt of that either of them was a certified Arborist. The crew from Davey Tree came out of the Hanley Industrial Court office which is all but just about shut down. It was the Friday before Christmas…. According to Sargent Manestar, who went down to their office in a sincere effort to help me figure this out, told me that the Davey Tree Brentwood satellite office has been running on a skeleton crew because they are closing it down. I sincerely doubt, from all of the information that I have uncovered that a certified arborist from Davey Tree was ever present. Nor does that matter.
- Regardless of what the work order said, or whether or not Davey Tree cut the tree that the City of Brentwood Subcontracted them to cut, whether or not they cut the tree that that they were told to cut, whether or not an arborist was on site at any point during the act does not matter because IT WAS THE WRONG TREE BECAUSE I OWNED THE TREE!! It sits on MY PROPERTY, I MAINTAINED IT (by city Notification and request I owned and was responsible for the maintenance of MY TREE), it was healthy, and the city had no right to it claim it as their own. There were NO proceedings. THE CITY HAS NO RIGHT TO CUT DOWN A TREE THAT DOESN’T BELONG TO THEM. If there was something wrong with the tree I should have received Notification to do something about the Tree at MY OWN EXPENSE! Just as Brentwood sent me a notice 2 years prior to all this to cut back all of the dead limbs back at my expense! If it needed to be cut down… WHICH IT DID NOT.. it should have been my responsibility and at my expense. By asking me by Official Notice to cut down any dead limbs, clearly shows the City’s will full abandonment and responsibility or of their rights to determine the fate of f MY OAK TREE without my necessary and rightful involvement.
Further, MY OAK TREE was chopped down on the Friday before Christmas and in the rain after days of Rain. Davey Tree’s men TRASHED and left ruts in my yard (which I paid to have airated and seeded just this fall), they pulled my solar Lighting out of the ground that ran along my driveway, broke them, and tossed them in my driveway. They broke a stone step loose between my driveway and stairs to my porch. Since they cut the tree down in the rain, and chipped it in the rain, there is a muddied wet mess of saw dust all in MY driveway and yard. My gutter on the South Side of my house is now overflowing with Oak Leaves. Many of the Tiles on steps that lead up to my porch (which I also had repaired and replaced this summer by Northwest Tile) are now broken loose from the substrate below from Davey Tree letting the tree limbs fall on them. Not only did they do it on the Friday before Christmas, but they did not finish the job, and they left a twenty-five foot tall limbless corpse in the middle of my front yard, which I now have to look at in disgust… the sight of it is crushing and affecting me emotionally. AND THIS WAS ALL DONE ON CHRISTMAS WEEKEND! WHERE WAS THE PROPER THOUGHT PROCESS BEHIND ANY OF THIS!
This was the most horribly, misguided, mishandled choice of decisions that I have ever seen Brentwood make. It was the Perfect Storm of Blunders at tremendous personal harm to me emotionally and to my home and to my property physically:
- The Removal of the tree has stripped my house of its curb appeal and in mine and some realtor’s opinions that I have spoken to, devaluated my properties worth. To own a property with such a tree such as a beautiful Oak Tree is very desirable because it adds charm.
- The Removal has stripped my home of its Privacy.
- The Removal of the tree and the tremendous shade that it provided has now exposed my home on both the South and West Side to direct sunlight during the Summer Months which is going to cause my Utility bills to drastically increase during the air conditioning months. The spring and fall months, when other people have had to run their Air Conditioning, I did not have to, because the tree shaded my home from Solar Gain.
- My property was trespassed upon and damages were done to my property beyond the wrongful theft of MY OAK TREE.
I AM MAKING MYSELF VERY CLEAR AND I AM PUTTING THE CITY OF BRENTWOOD ON NOTICE:
AS THE SOLE PROPERTY OWNER OF 2028 URBAN DRIVE, BRENTWOOD, MO 63144:
I DO NOT WANT DAVEY TREE OR ANY BRENTWOOD PUBLIC WORKS EMPLOYEE, OR COMPANY, OR ANY ONE ELSE HIRED BY THE CITY OF BRENTWOOD, WITH THE INTENTION OF REMOVING THE REST OF MY TREE OR RETURNING TO MY PROPERTY TO PERFORM ANY WORK UNDER ANY AND ALL OTHER CIRCUMSTANCE TO SET FOOT ON MY PROPERTY, UNTIL ALL OF THIS IS RESOLVED AND AGREED TO IN WRITING BY ALL PARTIES. ANY ATTEMPT TO REMOVE THE REST OF MY TREE, TO DO ANY WORK OF ANY KIND, OR TO SIMPLY STEP FOOT ON MY PROPERTY WITH ANY INTENTIONS OF ANY KIND, UNLESS INVITED TO DO SO BY ME, DOUG GRUDER, WILL BE CONSIDERED AS WRONGFUL AND ILLEGAL TRESPASSING AND I WILL PROSECUTE ANY AND ALL AS AFFORDED TO ME BY MY LEGAL RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW, BOTH CIVILLY AND CRIMINALLY!!!
AS IS MY RESPONSIBILITY, I WILL BE POSTING NO TRESPASSING SIGNS ON MY PROPERTY BEFORE THE WEEKEND IS OUT!
Gruder sent this photo to 40 South, showing that the trunk of the tree was not hollow.