Havre city officials may soon have more authority to fight diseased and blighted trees on city and private property.
The city council's Ordinance Committee gave tentative approval to legislation that would give Parks and Recreation officials the authority they say they need. Lawyers will compile changes made during Tuesday's meeting, and the ordinance will be voted on at the next meeting. The date has not been set.
But the ordinance will not include a provision that opponents feared gave the city unilateral permission to enter public property. Those concerns were rectified during a meeting Tuesday night.
"You're going to send Joe Bob over to my house and say 'I don't like that tree, so I'm going to fine you.' Is that what this is about?" asked Charles Grant, the lone interested resident at the meeting. "Where's our liberty?"
But acting chair Janet Trethewey said that was not the intention at all.
She said parks officials were concerned about the spread of Dutch Elm disease and pine beetles. If city officials were concerned that a diseased tree were on private property, they would work with the owner to see that it be cut down. The city would follow legal measures to get onto the property only if the owner were uncooperative, she said.
"We're living on the plains, and every tree is important," she said.
Diseased or blighted trees that might fall onto sidewalks or neighboring homes would also be covered under the ordinance, she said.
The ordinance would also prohibit people from tampering with city-owned trees — either near sidewalks, on boulevards or in city parks — from being torn down by people.
Trethewey said some people cut down pine trees in city parks last year, apparently planning to use them as Christmas trees. The trees had been planted in memory of deceased people, she said.
The legislation was needed to help solve these problem, council members said.
"This is not something we took up because we needed something to do," said council member Bob Kaul.
Violators of the ordinance would be fined $500, and tax liens would be placed on their property if they failed to pay.
During the meeting, committee members softened some of the language in the ordinance.
And at the end of the session, Grant seemed pleased with the changes.
The committee also moved forward with an ordinance aimed at strengthening the animal control regulations.
City moves to fight tree blight
Published: Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
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