The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

March 14, 2012

Conneaut ready to uproot old tree, shrub law

CONNEAUT —  An ordinance that would require permits for some extensive tree work and also allow municipal employees to investigate dangerous tree complaints on private property received its first reading at Monday’s City Council meeting.

The measure is the first of several local laws to receive an overhaul from City Manager Tim Eggleston and Law Director David Schroeder.

Council received the proposed update with cautious optimism. It was moved to a second reading and is expected to receive a full three readings before it surfaces for a vote in April.

The proposed law obligates landowners to care for trees in city treelawns and also to obtain a permit before starting any tree removal work or extensive pruning on trees growing in treelawns. Minor trimming to clear branches out of the way of vehicles or pedestrians would not require a permit.

Changes in the law would also allow city workers to go on private property to check out tree concerns. The investigations would be complaint-driven, meaning employees won’t be driving around looking for problems, Eggleston said.

Rod Raker of the Conneaut Tree Commission said generally the city’s tree experts are usually invited by the concerned party to examine a troublesome tree or limb. “It’s usually a landowner who is worried about a neighbor’s tree,” he said.

Council generally endorsed the proposed changes but had plenty of questions. Ward 3 Councilman Richard McBride was troubled by the private property inspection section and asked Eggleston to “doublecheck the legality of that clause.”

“We must make sure we have a solid basis to do that,” he said.

Ward 1 Councilman Doug Hedrick and others fretted the landowner’s obligation to maintain trees on treelawns as spelled out in the law could prove a budget-buster for many households.

“It’s a good ordinance, one that is beneficial to the city and will improve the quality of life,” Hedrick said. “But it could work a potential hardship for some people. I hope the city would work with these people to make (maintenance) more do-able.”

The law would also regulate the type of vegetation that could be planted on treelawns and under electric wires. The goal is to plant trees that won’t outgrow the treelawn and become a maintenance headache in years to come, Raker said. Conneaut is overrun with big trees whose roots are heaving up sidewalks just a few inches away, officials have said.

Eggleston said the purpose of the revamped tree law was to spell out maintenance responsibilities and to “try to preserve trees and make sure they’re properly pruned.”

Tree Commission members have compiled a lengthy list of dead or dangerous trees, Raker said. The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. has indicated its tree-trimming division could give the city some help, Raker said.

“We have to start somewhere,” he said.

Coming before council in the weeks ahead are proposed law changes regarding foreclosure notices, parking, impounded vehicles, methamphetamine lab cleanup, building demolition, snowmobile access and use of the Conneaut Harbor sandbar, officials said.

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