City fines homeowner over $11k for cutting down trees

A Traverse City homeowner was fined more than $11,000 for cutting down trees between the sidewalk and street at his house.

Traverse City fined a homeowner over $11,000 for cutting down trees in his yard.

A home on the corner of East State and Franklin had three trees removed on February 18th. The removal included two maples and an oak tree - which neighbors said were of good size/age.

The issue - the trees were between the street and the sidewalk, which is city-owned property.

Since the homeowner, Stuart Walker of Louisville, Kentucky, did not ask permission, he was fined - along with Deering Tree Service of Maple City who removed the trees. Together, the two paid the $11,550 fine. The fine was determined by a city-appointed tree appraiser who established the value of the trees, added the cost to plant new trees, and repair damage done to the lawn.

Deering Tree Service was included in the fine because they did not have a permit to complete work in a right-of-way or take heavy equipment across city infrastructure. They had offered to replace the trees and complete repairs. The tree service considered the maple trees rotten and unsafe and the oak tree had split. Because of this, Walker wanted the trees replaced.

Traverse City ordinance 1028 states "Unless otherwise permitted by this chapter, no person, firm or corporation shall shall plant, remove or trim any tree or shrub in a public area without first obtaining a permit therefor. The granting of such permit shall be contingent upon the requirement that the activity not interfere with the public health or safety, that it not constitute a public nuisance and that it complies with the Urban Forest Plan and arborcultural standards. Permits shall be granted only with the consent of the owner of the public area."

The ordinance also states "The application for a permit required under this section shall contain: i.evidence of sufficient interest in the property; ii. the location and species of each tree or shrub to be planted, trimmed, or removed; iii. a description of the action to be taken; and iv. a fee as determined by resolution of the City Commission. If the action includes removal, the permit shall specify replacement as required under this chapter or give reason why replacement is not necessary."

For more information regarding the permit, contact the Grand Traverse County Clerk's Office.