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Woodside reduces resident's fine for felling trees

Fine is reduced from $72,500 to $5,000

The Woodside Town Council, echoing a 2009 decision, dramatically reduced a resident's fine for felling major trees without a permit.

A unanimous council -- absent Peter Mason -- agreed on July 12 to reduce to $5,000 a $72,500 fine against resident Gregory Wimmer of Patrol Road for the loss of eight trees: seven bay laurels, which can carry sudden oak death (SOD) spores, and one buckeye.

(In October 2009 after a searching discussion, the council lowered a fine to $10,000 from $92,500 for a resident's felling of 10 coast live oaks.)

The $5,000 fine this time was for the buckeye, the standard penalty for cutting one tree with at least a 9.5-inch diameter at 4 feet above the ground. Violators are supposed to pay $7,500 for the second tree and $10,000 for each one after that, but the council zeroed out the fines for the bay laurels, given the circumstances, including the SOD risk.

In a February 2011 letter to the town, Mr. Wimmer had written that he had told the La Canada Tree Service at least three times to obtain a permit before cutting any major trees. "It's strictly by the book with me for any work done," he wrote.

A tree service representative tried to acquire a permit the day after the tree cutting but was refused, according to a staff report.

Attempts by the Almanac to contact a La Canada Tree Service based in Fremont via phone, voice-mail and email were unsuccessful, as were attempts to contact Mr. Wimmer, who said he works in Southern California.

"La Canada has stopped returning (my) phone calls and emails," Mr. Wimmer told the council.

Assistant Town Manager Kevin Bryant told the council he was unable to confirm that La Canada was licensed to do business in Woodside.

While Mr. Wimmer must pay the fine, various state agencies, including the Contractors State License Board, are available to help recoup costs, Councilman Dave Tanner said.

Asked in a phone interview about contractor behavior in general, Mr. Tanner, a builder, talked of an underground economy and contractors who "will do anything" to avoid extra costs. "It's just non-stop," he said. "It's really a crime what happens to people on this."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by old time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Tree ordinaces in most towns and cities are a solution looking for a problem. People do not cut down trees unless they have a very good reason and we now have many more trees than were originally here. A case can be made that neighbors trees actually create problems by blocking the sun, dropping litter, raising fences and patios, and presenting safety hazards (dropped limbs or the tree actually falling). I am not suggesting an ordinance to solve these problems, but in this era of reduced staff we shouldn't waste their time criminalizing residents over trees.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by marge parkhurst
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm

The crime here is that cutting your own trees is a crime in the first place. If the city wants to tell me what to do with my trees, then the city should assume responsibility for "my" trees' care because the trees really no longer belong to me - the trees belong to the city or the county.

Marge Parkhurst


 +   Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm

How is it the Woodside Council made the decision and not the COUNTY?
This sounds very fortunate for Mr. Wimmer when I have heard of people similar to her, having had their trees demolished by neighbors who hired illegals through a major service and then left the owner to pay a LOT more and being accused of instigating the destruction herself.
As if turned out, the perpetrators were connected to the victim and made her pay a LOT more even though she was out of town when the incident occured.
This does not sound right to me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by it's the law
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 31, 2011 at 10:57 am

Woodside has jurisdiction because Article 11 of the California Constitution gives authority for Local Jurisdiction of City Charters and Ordinances to supersede other local governing authorities such as counties.


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