Huntington Woods homeowners call tree protection law too overbearing

HUNTINGTON WOODS - Allison Iversen has called Huntington Woods home for 16 years. She's grown to love her tree-lined neighborhood.

"When you drive down this street, and you see those trees arch over the street, it's fantastic," Iversen said.

The large sycamore in her back yard is almost a part of the family. But recently, Iversen has considered having it cut down; its roots are causing the yard to buckle.

That's when a new tree protection ordinance - adopted by the city commission in June - caught Iversen's attention. The new law is designed to protect the city's healthy, mature trees and to discourage homeowners from taking them down. It requires homeowners to have a permit, submit plans and drawings for tree removal and replacement and consult professionals to determine the health of the trees. Homeowners also have to replace the removed tree.

Iversen says it would cost her about $8,000 to remove her sycamore because of its size and designation as a "heritage" tree.

Huntington Woods City Manager Amy Sullivan said she understands why some homeowners are up in arms about the ordinance.

"It's personal property rights versus maintaining the character of the community," Sullivan said.

She added the ordinance, which was modeled after similar laws in place in nearby communities, is meant to preserve the tree canopy in the city.

"Of course we feel like we should protect [those trees.] But not this way," Iversen said.

Earlier this month, Iversen and some of her neighbors gathered 533 signatures and filed a petition asking the city to repeal the ordinance or put the issue on a ballot. 

The move suspended the law for now. 

In the meantime, Sullivan says, it's back to the drawing board.

"They will be going back and revising the ordinance," Sullivan said. "We're looking for input because we need to protect trees, but at the same time we don't want to be too overbearing."

"Personally my feeling is that I don't want anyone telling me how to manage the tree population on my property," Iversen said.

City leaders are meeting Thursday night to discuss language on the petition filed by Iversen. City commissioners could take up the issue again at their next meeting on August 19

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