Tree owner rebuts city statement

In an email to 40 South with the subject line, My Rebuttal To Bola Akande, Doug Gruder, whose oak was removed by the city on Friday, has responded to the city administrator’s report of the meeting on Tuesday between Gruder, city staff members and elected officials.

His first comment is a complaint that Akande misspelled his last name — it’s since been corrected. Among other items, Gruder says he hasn’t received the arborist report on the tree, which he had requested, and that he will make his own determination if the tree was in the city easement/right of way.

Gruder’s comments: (as before, all capitalizations are Gruder’s)

Readers, please take note that Bola Akande, after all that has happened, has not even gotten the spelling of my last name correctly even after receiving multiple emails from as well as reading all of the articles that have come out of the paper. I find that to be an insult to the injury I have already sustained from their office!

What remains, for now, of Doug Gruder’s oak tree on Urban Avenue.

At yesterday’s meeting I was promised, to have sent to me, that very afternoon, the two certified arborist reports that were done on my tree. Even after requesting it from Bola for a second time, via email, that has not happened. All that was sent to me was a 2-line description within a list of trees to be taken down by Davey Tree, put together by Davey Tree, who was paid to have MY OAK TREE removed! The very same description that she has put in her written response.  I FIND THE FACT THAT THE LIST AND THE DESCRIPTION COMING FROM DAVEY TREE TO BE AN EXTRAORDINARY CONFLICT OF INTEREST! I also find it very strange that after promising me that she would get me the certified reports that day that she has still failed to do so.

For the record, after a very heated 45-minute start to the meeting, I was finally calmed down by my Aldermen, who are behind me and being very supportive of my position on all of this… When I was finally willing to at least hear what it was that Bola and Peter Van Linn were willing to say, we had discussed the current damage to my property done by Davey Tree and the future damage to my property due to the decaying roots and those remedies, and the easement / right of way that they claim exists.

They have admitted to being grossly negligent in their handling of the entire situation by their lack of communication, lack of proper notification, the fact that the city had neglected the care of MY TREE for the entire 31 years that I lived there and that I should never had been asked by Written Notifications from the City of Brentwood to take care of that Oak Tree because it was their tree all along. So, in other words, Bola Akande and Peter Van Linn, have so far ratified and agreed with everything that I have been claiming other than we still disagree as to who’s property MY TREE was.

I definitely left that meeting telling them as much and that I will be doing my own research into the whether or not the surveys done on my property do indeed show the same easement / right of way that the document they showed me does.

In my interpretation of an easement or right of way, I still own the property and all that is on it… I have simply granted them an access to my property for the running or maintaining of utilities etc. I am not an attorney but I do feel that there may be a case in that if the City of Brentwood woefully abandoned their rights to the easement / right of way and the ownership of MY TREE that claim is theirs, and  because they, in the 31 years I have lived at the property, never once cared for the tree. I believe in Real Estate Law that when one party maintains and cares for a piece of property for at least 7 years, abandoned and neglected by the other party, that piece of property is forfeited by the party who neglected it to the party that maintained it. In other words, if they ever did have ownership rights they may have had have been forfeited over to me. I am not an attorney, I am consulting with an attorney and I am looking into this very issue right now.

During the meeting, Peter Van Linn, towards the end of the meeting when all had calmed down, said that there might also have been other possibilities other than cutting My Tree down, but he had not considered them. He said that had he known that My Tree was so important to me, had I been given the proper notice and been able to reach out to him prior to the tree coming down, that he might have looked into discussing the possibilities of caring for the tree and trying to save it.

However, since he firmly believes that the tree was Brentwood’s property to take by right of way, and that in his and Davey Tree’s opinion, a safety hazard to life and other property, he felt he was making the right decision. PLEASE NOTE: I find it very hard to accept that Peter Van Linn, being a professional Certified Aborist, walked into the meeting without any pictures of the tree from October when the decision was made, actually no pictures at all (I do not believe anyone has pictures) and, he also walked into the meeting without either of the Certified Arborist Reports. As I stated earlier I was promised them sent to me and I have yet to receive them.

What concerns me is that although I do not feel that anyone at the City of Brentwood did this with malicious intentions towards me, that they have completely and incompetently bungled the entire handling of this situation and now appear to be scrambling and back tracking to put the pieces together to justify their thoroughly irresponsible way that they handled the issue of MY TREE. Their Actions were completed autonomously and in solidarity and did not allow for my involvement, input, say so, or rights as the property owner or as my rights as a tax paying citizen of Brentwood.

Although Bola and Peter have decided to use the example of what they did incorrectly in my situation as a learning lesson of what not to do in the future, and they have listened to and are considering my advice it is a little too late for me and MY BEAUTIFUL OAK TREE!

Please be advised, although we have had a meeting, and although we have discussed many of the issues, nothing has been agreed to in writing and there is still much to discuss and figure out. This entire debacle has been very emotionally draining and time consuming and I wish it had never happened.

Gruder, in the email to 40 South on Wednesday, also included a statement from Sherrie Gruder, (his sister), a Sustainable Design Specialist and Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Extension. On Monday she emailed Gruder that by cutting down his tree the city failed its Tree City USA obligations and more.

Sherrie Gruder’s letter:

The City of Brentwood, Missouri is a 2015 Tree City USA, adopted a Sustainable City Plan as well as a Climate Action Plan in 2014 and participates in ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. Being a Tree City requires that the city meets core standards of sound urban forestry management including a viable tree management program. The Climate Action Plan looks at ways for Brentwood to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from the level determined in its greenhouse gas inventory as part of a regional program with the US Green Building Council Missouri.

Local government operations and community wide emissions are called out as areas of focus. Improving energy efficiency is one approach. That is accomplished naturally and economically by shading buildings from the sun with trees that reduce cooling loads and the need to run air conditioning. As stated in the Climate Action Plan, promoting residential energy efficiency decreases utility bills and increases property values. Trees act as a natural carbon sink as well, help to control erosion and to create a sense of place. Also, they improve air quality.

Given Brentwood’s values as reflected in the policies, plans and programs it has adopted, it is important that its actions are consistent with those and that all City departments integrate urban forest management, sustainability and climate protection imperatives into their operations. That would include safeguarding its tree canopy on public and private property.

Clearly, in the case of removing your old and healthy oak tree, the city has failed on all counts. I’m sorry for your loss and the loss to Brentwood of this public good that you maintained on your property. Oaks are slow growing trees and the ecosystem benefits provided by the one cut down on your property will not be able to be replaced for decades.

This incident can serve as a wake- up call to the city to review how it integrates its plans and values into staff duties and city operations and the checks and balances it puts into place to ensure that it acts to safeguard public health and well-being. While Brentwood has taken policy action locally to be a safe, livable city with a high quality of life and to help mitigate severe climate events; and, while Brentwood is part of global commitment to combat climate change, it needs to turn its policies and plans into effective, results oriented actions. Optimized implementation is key.

Sherrie Gruder, LEED APBD+C
Sustainable Design Specialist
Energy Program Coordinator
Distinguished Lecturer
UW Cooperative Extension
Madison, WI 53703

21 thoughts on “Tree owner rebuts city statement

  1. Get over it????? It will only take 120 years to replace….. Shame on you…. Guess you don’t need any pesky trees to give you oxygen,shade or beauty….hold your breath!!!

    • Margie, I am not an arborist, I assume you are not either. The city made errors, they are correcting them. They had the oppion of two arborist. They have said they would show that it was in the city’s right of way. No amount of complaining about it will bring it back. My point is I think the article is trying get people angry when the city is already addressing the situation. If you want to continue to complain, go right ahead, it’s a free country.

      • Shame on you, Margie. Maybe take first grade again and learn that you don’t need to add those 5 extra periods, exclamation points, and question marks to the end of every sentence to get your point across. No amount of disrespect and insults towards fellow residents on here will help to bring back Mr. Gruder’s tree. I love trees. I am saddened to hear that such an old Oak was cut down in Brentwood. I am distraught to hear that such a mess was left at Mr. Gruder’s property and that he was not given proper notification. Despite my feelings, I also know how to be PROACTIVE and not REACTIVE. As residents of Brentwood, it is our responsibility to voice our opinions and objections to the actions of the city in a reasonable manner. January 3, 7pm at city hall, there is a Board of Alderman meeting. I plan to attend and I hope everyone commenting here does as well. Complaints in this comment section are exactly that, complaints. Opinions voiced to city administrators will actually help to be proactive in this situation.

  2. How is this news? The city said there were mistakes made and they are going to change the process for notification. Also, they were going to work with all parties to have the damage to the property fixed. Instead of fanning the flames to get a story (when one doesn’t exist) how about waiting for the facts as to where the city’s right of way is? We as a society have more worth while issues to address! Move on, there is no story here.

    • How is this News??? Are you that STUPID, obtuse, and insensitive? You try coming home from work and find out that your property was radically changed without any notification whatsoever and see how you react or feel. The City admitting that they made mistakes will never bring that guys 120 year old oak tree back.

      • This isn’t news. This situation is one involving Mr. Gruder and the City of Brentwood. That being said, 98% of the people reading the article and having it arrive in their inboxes are not affected in the slightest and truthfully have no business forming an opinion on the matter. Presenting these articles (and there are 6 of them to date) to an audience that does not have a detailed understanding of the events that led up this situation is throwing a lot of unnecessary hate at the city and the other parties involved. People seem really quick to pullout the torches and pitchforks before having all of the information.

  3. looking at the above picture I have to wonder about all the yard damage that is talked about. The yard does not look that bad to me. Secondly I have to wonder about who’s tree it is. Again the picture does not make it clear but the tree does not look too far from the street and into the yard, certainly not as far as I thought it was. If the street was relocated somewhat over the years the tree might be close enough to the street to be considered part of the city’s responsibilities.

    I do agree that some better communication would have helped the entire situation. Or at least some time to explore other options.

  4. The city might not of had a certified Arborist at the time of said tree being cut down because Bola decided to strip the one they had of his certification. And it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that another one was hired.

    • Find me a new 120 year old oak and I’ll make sure it gets planted. Ignorant comment Stan.

      • Cool you weren’t even alive when the original tree was planted, so thanks for proving my point once again. No one cares. Move along now little one

  5. Without really mining into the City Code too much, Section 230.120 of Brentwood’s Code states, “If the Public Works Official shall determine that any tree within the City is in a dead or dying condition or is infected with any of the diseases referred to in Section 230.100…(describes procedure for removing trees).” The diseases in Section 230.100 are Coratostomella Ulmi and Phloem Necrosis. The City Administrator’s description of the tree’s afflictions did not include either of those diseases. There is a “catch-all” section (230.110) permitting the City to remove any tree in a dead or dying condition, but trees falling under that subsection are not incorporated into (in fact, are excluded from) the removal procedure in 230.120, and there is no removal procedure applicable to trees falling under 230.110 in the Code. This is splitting hairs, but technically the City Code does not provide a manner for the City to remove trees unless those trees are afflicted with Coratostomella Ulmi and Phloem Necrosis. This is likely the result of shoddy drafting, and a court might say that, in the absence of any other stated procedure, the procedure provided in 230.120 applies to any tree in a dead or dying condition. But then again, maybe not.

    The above being irrelevant, of course, if the tree was not located a “public street, ground or place or upon any property owned by the City,” since the City must comply with specific notice requirements if a tree is not located in such a place, and the Administrator’s statement admits that they did not comply with those requirements.

  6. This dude needs to consult with his attorney and shut the hell up about it for right now. Writing emails like this aren’t going to help with his emotional state.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Tom. This situation is one involving Mr. Gruder and the City, and should be kept a private matter until all of the information and reports are gathered and resolution is determined.

      • …so simple when it isn’t you. did you see the visuals–or follow the chain-link failures to inspect, inform, review alternatives or investigate any conditions of a City and City Contract with Davey Trees or the responsibilities of the City OR Davy’s? the original photos of before and after are subjective to appraise. But THIS MAN IS CORRECT. A lot of people would like to know how the procedural actions related to City codes and private property are related. If you are annoyed by your perceived infringements on your “peace” get an emotional support dog, incense therapy, group cries, take days off work to console yourselves—–BUT DON’T TELL THIS MAN HE DOES NOT HAVE A LEGITIMATE STANCE for following his grievance. A lot of people want to know how City decisions are made, AND BY WHOM.

        • I do not believe myself or Tom implied at any point that this man does not have a legitimate stance. His grievances are understandable. At this point in the situation, there is nothing more being done than finger pointing and name calling. It is evident that Mr. Gruder is deeply affected by this situation. We are simply saying that he should be careful who he directs his strong emotions towards.

    • Jeez, TOM, why the insensitivity and disrespect toward a man who’s clearly hurting right now? Was it really necessary to refer to this resident and former owner of Applegate’s Market flippantly as “this dude” and then declare that he should “shut the hell up”?

      There’s a legitimate question as to where the City’s property line is located at Pine & Urban. The Corporation of Brentwood is 97 years old but some of its streets and residential subdivisions are even older. In cities this age there can be errors and surprises in plat books and land deeds. If there’s a little-known City right-of-way or easement at Mr. Gruder’s property, or an error in the City’s maps, what’s to say this couldn’t be the case at your property, too? How would you like to return home some day to find strangers trespassing on your land without notice or permission destroying your tree or fence or garage because the City claimed it was located in its r-o-w or easement? And how would you feel if someone in the Peanut Gallery were to then tell you to “shut the hell up”?

      Why don’t you (a) show Mr. Gruder some compassion, and (b) consult with your own attorney to make sure there isn’t a secret easement at your property?