07-26 tree-01

Steve Missildine's century-old tree, shortly after the city began cutting it down without notice.

City council members will consider revising the city's tree-removal law when they meet next month.

The issue emerged after city contractors destroyed a 100-year-old tree last month, without notifying the owner, resident Steve Missildine.

Interim City Manager Leslie Cloer told the Herald-Press Wednesday city council members could amend the ordinance during their Aug. 12 meeting, to eliminate the kind of surprise Missildine endured.

“I've made sure it's on the agenda,” Cloer said. “The council and I are definitely going to look over the language of the ordinance; this shouldn't happen again.”

In May, after a storm downed another tree on Missildine's property, retiring Public Works Director Tim Perry and Deputy Director Rob Thames decided to remove the tree at 418 Coronaca St.

The city could have become liable if another storm brought down the second tree on Missildine's house, or the church across the street, Perry said, in explaining his decision to remove the tree.

Perry said he knocked on Missildine's door before starting the take-down – more than city ordinance requires -- but no one was home.

“City ordinance says if the right-of-way is 50 feet, the city can remove a tree it deems dangerous at half that distance, with no prior notification,” Perry told the Herald-Press after the incident. “The tree was within 25 feet.”

During Monday's council meeting, members voted unanimously to finish removing the tree – now a 40-foot stump – from Missildine's property, as well as grinding and removing the base of the tree.

“Some of the council-members even apologized to me and my wife during work session,” Missildine said. “I think they understand where the city was wrong.”

These days, as he sits in his home-office, Missildine looks out the window at the bare, multi-story log that was once a proud water oak; he misses how the shade cooled the room.

Replacing the 80-foot behemoth with two younger trees, Missildine said, would be fair. It would not only begin to heal some emotional wounds, he said, but also replace some lost property value.

“I told them twenty-foot trees, about 8-inches in diameter, would probably do it,” he said. “It won't shade the house in the summer, but it will beautify the property.”

Missildine also requested the city guarantee the trees for a year.

Cloer said council members are looking into the cost of Missildine's request.

“We have to find the price of the trees, and the cost to have them planted,” she said. “We don't have anyone on staff that plants trees, so we'll have to see the cost of contracting that out.”

The planting probably could not occur until late fall, Cloer said, when survival of the trees is more likely. Until then, the council will have the opportunity to compare costs, and consider the economic feasibility of replacing the trees.

Missildine said he's pleased with the city's initial response, but will reserve judgement until his trees are replaced.

“They seem to be moving in the right direction so far,” he said. “Hopefully what me and my wife went through will save other residents a lot of frustration.”