Almanac

News - April 10, 2013

Woodside considers $52,000 fine for illegal tree-cutting

by Dave Boyce

Bay laurel trees get no respect by many in Northern California because they harbor the nefarious microbes that cause Sudden Oak Death. But that doesn't mean they don't have legal standing, at least not in Woodside.

The Town Council will hear an appeal by Woodside property owner Rajiv Gujral, who received notice in January of a municipal code violation over the unlawful felling in December of six mature bay laurel trees on his property at 330 Jane Drive. Mr. Gujral is appealing the staff decision requiring him to pay a penalty of $52,500.

The council meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, in Independence Hall near the corner of Woodside and Whiskey Hill roads.

Woodside requires property owners to obtain a $50 tree destruction permit from Town Hall, a process that also involves a visit to the property by town officials. The prescribed fines for cutting significant trees without a permit are $5,000 for the first tree, $7,500 for the second, and $10,000 for each subsequent tree.

Significance depends on species. A faster growing native tree becomes significant when it measures more than 9.5 inches in diameter at 4 feet above the ground. For non-native trees like the eucalyptus and Monterey cypress, the standard is 11.5 inches.

Over the past few years, the Woodside council has heard three appeals of staff decisions and lowered the fine every time.

Residents do get tree cutting permits, Deputy Town Manager Paul Nagengast said in an interview. The town issued 339 permits over the previous three years. In 2013, the town has issued 29 so far, Mr. Nagengast said.

Also on the agenda: a council discussion of a draft historic preservation ordinance for Woodside.

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