News

Woodside: Fine diluted again for felling trees

It's been eight years since Woodside's Town Council amended the town's tree protection law. The 2006 ordinance defines when a particular species of tree is large enough around to be considered "significant," and the stiff penalties for taking down a significant tree without first obtaining a $50 permit.

Take down three or more significant trees and it can cost you $10,000 per tree.

Except that it never does. The council has heard at least five appeals of major fines since 2009, including one for $92,000. None of the penalties paid have been even close to what the statute calls for. The most recent, on Oct. 28., was more of the same.

Sudhir S. Dixit of Woodside Drive asked the council for mercy over a fine of $12,500 for the felling of two pine trees of significant size without getting a permit. The fine is $5,000 for the first tree and $7,500 for the second. Mr. Dixit said he'd been misinformed by the contractor about the need for a permit, a common complaint.

The council reduced the fine, this time to 10 percent of what is specified. Past penalties have been 7 percent of the fine on the books, 11 percent, and two at 50 percent, both of which included refunds if ameliorative steps were taken.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Almanac Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

As in past deliberations, council members were not happy with their record. The council has acted with "terrible inconsistency," said Councilwoman Anne Kasten. The permitting process is not well understood, Councilman Ron Romines said, and a study session is in order.

Mayor Dave Burow said he meets with Town Manager Kevin Bryant "every two weeks, and every two weeks I ask him, 'When are we going to schedule this session?'"

Councilman Dave Tanner suggested sending letters to every resident on the need for tree-destruction permits, and to every contractor within 50 miles "to put them on notice that we fine people for this." Maybe a sign at the entrance to town, he said: "Welcome to Woodside. Get a permit."

Mr. Dixit's drought-stricken Monterey pines were already in their last days and were infested with bark beetles, an arborist told the council.

Fire Marshal Denise Enea of the Woodside Fire Protection District recently singled out Monterey pines, along with eucalyptus, as being fire hazards when located near power lines. But if they're big enough, the municipal code requires a permit to fell even these non-native and potentially hazardous trees.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

"I'm kind of torn about whether we should have permits at all for these trees," Mr. Burow said. "They're going to be a fire hazard, so lets get them out of here."

Follow AlmanacNews.com and The Almanac on Twitter @almanacnews, Facebook and on Instagram @almanacnews for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Woodside: Fine diluted again for felling trees

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 4, 2014, 10:26 am

It's been eight years since Woodside's Town Council amended the town's tree protection law. The 2006 ordinance defines when a particular species of tree is large enough around to be considered "significant," and the stiff penalties for taking down a significant tree without first obtaining a $50 permit.

Take down three or more significant trees and it can cost you $10,000 per tree.

Except that it never does. The council has heard at least five appeals of major fines since 2009, including one for $92,000. None of the penalties paid have been even close to what the statute calls for. The most recent, on Oct. 28., was more of the same.

Sudhir S. Dixit of Woodside Drive asked the council for mercy over a fine of $12,500 for the felling of two pine trees of significant size without getting a permit. The fine is $5,000 for the first tree and $7,500 for the second. Mr. Dixit said he'd been misinformed by the contractor about the need for a permit, a common complaint.

The council reduced the fine, this time to 10 percent of what is specified. Past penalties have been 7 percent of the fine on the books, 11 percent, and two at 50 percent, both of which included refunds if ameliorative steps were taken.

As in past deliberations, council members were not happy with their record. The council has acted with "terrible inconsistency," said Councilwoman Anne Kasten. The permitting process is not well understood, Councilman Ron Romines said, and a study session is in order.

Mayor Dave Burow said he meets with Town Manager Kevin Bryant "every two weeks, and every two weeks I ask him, 'When are we going to schedule this session?'"

Councilman Dave Tanner suggested sending letters to every resident on the need for tree-destruction permits, and to every contractor within 50 miles "to put them on notice that we fine people for this." Maybe a sign at the entrance to town, he said: "Welcome to Woodside. Get a permit."

Mr. Dixit's drought-stricken Monterey pines were already in their last days and were infested with bark beetles, an arborist told the council.

Fire Marshal Denise Enea of the Woodside Fire Protection District recently singled out Monterey pines, along with eucalyptus, as being fire hazards when located near power lines. But if they're big enough, the municipal code requires a permit to fell even these non-native and potentially hazardous trees.

"I'm kind of torn about whether we should have permits at all for these trees," Mr. Burow said. "They're going to be a fire hazard, so lets get them out of here."

Comments

Jenny
Portola Valley: Westridge
on Nov 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm
Jenny, Portola Valley: Westridge
on Nov 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm

There should be a reward for felling eucalyptus trees. They are non native and a storm and fire hazard.


fwiw
Woodside: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm
fwiw, Woodside: other
on Nov 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm


At least in Mr. Dixit's case, his contractor's confusion over permits was pretty understandable. Although Woodside does require that a $50 permit be drawn, the Woodside Planning Director is explicitly directed to approve said permit for Eucalyptus, Acacia, or Monterey Pine irregardless of health or size unless specifically designated as a Landmark.

Woodside Town Ordinance:

ยง 153.175 PERMIT - APPLICATION REVIEW.

(A) The Planning Director shall review the application according to the following criteria and grant the permit if any of these following criteria apply to the significant trees.

....

(5) They are Eucalyptus, Acacia or Monterey Pine, and are not designated as a Landmark.


Nancy
Woodside: other
on Nov 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm
Nancy, Woodside: other
on Nov 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm

The Town should identify which trees are near power lines and pose a risk. They should then make the effort to take them down, at a safe time of year when birds are not nesting.

Many Monterey Pines are failing, having been planted in the 1950's or 1960's, and having lived full lives. But there are eucalyptus that are well maintained and provide a haven for raptors. The Council needs to show support for the ordinance while having common sense about types of trees, locations, and health.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.