It’s YOUR tree when the city wants it trimmed, and THEIR tree when it is time to cut it down

Interesting how the city thinks you are responsible for trimming and maintaining THEIR trees in THE PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY (Cotter confirms that in this video) and they will fine and charge you if you don’t, but somehow they take ownership of the tree when they want it gone, without telling the adjoining property owner.

“I’ve had several neighbors stop and ask why we cut the tree down, and we’re like we didn’t cut the tree down. We have no idea why that tree was cut down. We were not notified by the City or anybody,” Muilenburg said.

This has been my problem with tree trimming all along, they talk about those trees being your responsibility, it is even in city ordinance. But if it needs to go, they don’t even bother notifying you, and it has it’s consequences.

“This was in memory of him and now it’s kind of the final, it’s over for him now,” Muilenburg said. “My brother’s gone.”


#1 Craig on 06.27.13 at 4:54 pm

I knew this story would be popular here.

I wouldn’t have a problem with the city coming in and taking out damaged trees as part of the storm cleanup (it is a ‘service’ after all) but I do think there should be some form of consultation with the homeowner. Since private contractors are getting paid by the city and/or FEMA to take out these trees, there might be an incentive to take out a tree that wasn’t really in need of removal.

Aside from that, if there was agreement between the property owner and the city then it would be fine. The branch cleanup was one thing, but there are still a lot of severely damaged trees that are just waiting for a wind storm to fall on top of cars or power lines.

I suppose the city could just do what they used to do when someone had a damaged tree – send the homeowner a notice that they need to remove it at their own expense or the city would do it for them and send them a bill.

I’m guessing that option would be even less popular than what they are currently doing.

#2 rufusx on 06.27.13 at 5:58 pm

Confusion between property ownership and civic duty. There is a difference. Many people are quite confused about how government works. Confused due to their own ignorance of the law, which is as we know – no excuse.

#3 scott on 06.27.13 at 6:10 pm

Will the city send them a bill on to of it?

#4 Detroit Lewis on 06.27.13 at 10:01 pm

I found the fact that they cut down the tree and just left it interesting. Is it any different then a young GW cutting down the cherry tree any different?

Say what you will, but you have to admit, the disconnect between the mayor’s office, public works and the city attorney’s office on this one is huge, but not surprising.

#5 Zamby on 06.27.13 at 11:27 pm

Zamby sad, did not get to climb his tree.

#6 Detroit Lewis on 06.28.13 at 9:28 am

Ruf – I don’t think the gentleman affected was ignorant to the laws, heck, they didn’t even bother to notify him.

#7 duggersd on 06.28.13 at 10:06 am

It is sort of like who owns the sidewalks and the parkways and who has to pay to maintain them. I have planted trees in the parkway several times with the understanding I was essentially donating them to the city. BTW, if there is not a major storm knocking trees down all over the city, I believe you are technically supposed to have an arbor license to cut that tree down.

#8 rufusx on 06.28.13 at 10:24 am

I was referring to your conflation between the notions of “ownership” (as in “your tree”) and responsibility to perform a civic duty (as in “time to trim”). the city doesn’t EVER say the tree “belongs to you”. It says you have a responsibility to trim the trees along your frontage. You cannot IGNORE the distinctions and expect to have a clear understanding of the situation – or the law; let alone DELIBERATELY MUDDLE the issue by conflating the differences – I.E., PROMOTING IGNORANCE.

#9 rufusx on 06.28.13 at 10:25 am

Ownership pf property is one thing.
Duty to care for property is another.

#10 Detroit Lewis on 06.28.13 at 1:03 pm

I don’t believe I have a duty to care for other’s property. It would be like the city forcing me to mow my neighbors yard. If the city expects us to maintain their property, they should at least have the common courtesy of telling us when THEY ARE GOING TO DO IT. And to add insult to injury, they didn’t even hall the tree away after chopping it down. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. They can’t have it both ways. I know that councilor Anderson has been working on a tree trimming resolution where citizens and the city have a common goal, because as it stands right now, the city has a goal, and it is ‘DO WHAT THEY SAY OR ELSE.’

#11 Testor15 on 06.28.13 at 1:16 pm

Once again we have a topic being taken in a weird direction. If you actually listen to the owner of the adjoining land you will hear him say the tree survived the ice storm in great shape. It had been hit many years ago by a vehicle so it had a healed wound.

In Sioux Falls when homes and businesses are built or remodeled, the city will require your builder / you to put trees in the boulevard for them. Does the required landscaping paid for by the adjoining property owner make sense if they have no rights of ownership? “Here, do this, do that” mentality but the city has no reverse responsibility.

We have a few commentators here who are enjoyable to read. There is a line of “people stupid, city smart” so we must always do what city hall tells us. Even if it is unconstitutional.

#12 Craig on 06.28.13 at 1:58 pm

“In Sioux Falls when homes and businesses are built or remodeled, the city will require your builder / you to put trees in the boulevard for them.”

Not so fast – they city will encourage homeowners to plant trees, but they won’t mandate or require it. There is a big difference. Certain neighborhoods will require X number of trees as part of the neighborhood covenants, but it isn’t a city mandate.

Here is the exact text directly from the city website:

Why are trees allowed to grow in the
parking strip?

You are not required to plant trees in the parking
strip. However, the City encourages approved trees
to be grown and maintained in the parking strip by
the abutting property owner. The tree-lined streets
of Sioux Falls are a big part of why this is a beautiful
community. You have a vested interest in the health
of the trees growing in the parking strip. These
trees add to property value, provide aesthetics,
provide shade from summer heat, reduce utility bills,
temper the wind, reduce noise and air pollution,
support our urban wildlife, and provide for a pleasant
environment to live, work, and play.


The city also offers a guide for where trees can be planted and what types of trees are allowed to be planted – so that’s something:

In short – if you don’t want the hassle of trimming or maintaining trees… then the solution is uber-simple: Don’t plant any.

#13 rufusx on 06.28.13 at 10:41 pm

The City BELONGS to each and all of its citizens. It is no9t some separate, private entity. It is YOURS. This is another foible of your underlying assumptions that leads to a misunderstanding of your relationship to the city. Your ARE the city – the city IS you. You are responsible for caring for your part of the city. That is what “good citizenship” is ALL about.

#14 rufusx on 06.28.13 at 10:43 pm

Responsoibilitie4s of citizenship have every bit as much weight as Rights of citizenship. There is no free lunch. You don’t get to benefit from this nation without making a contribution – well, unless you are a criminal.

#15 Testor15 on 06.29.13 at 1:30 am

Ruf we also as part of the ownership hire people to work for the best interests of the people who own the government even the least among us.
The people’s government is not for the convenience of the city workers and officials.
It is not for the specials to take advantage of loopholes put into the system only for their greed.
We do not hire employees and managers to make special arrangements with contractors and developers for better retirement programs.

We co me here to let the elected ones and their charges know we are watching and keeping track in anticipation of the next elections. We must help several of them to the closest exit doors.

#16 Poly43 on 06.29.13 at 7:32 am

On post 13. Very well put.

#17 Detroit Lewis on 06.29.13 at 10:23 am

“The City BELONGS to each and all of its citizens. It is not some separate, private entity. It is YOURS.”

Exactly. That is why they need to INFORM citizens and CONSULT them before cutting down trees.

#18 rufusx on 06.29.13 at 12:44 pm

So – when it comes to trees in the boulevard – you guys are all in favor of BIGGER GOVERNMENT – and MORE regulations and MORE legally required procedures. notifications, bureaucracy regarding same.

#19 Who is John Galt on 06.29.13 at 2:03 pm

There are many more stories like this to come.

#20 Testor15 on 06.29.13 at 10:02 pm

ruf, why is it when we question government or specials we citizens are always wrong to question? This town government does not like being held accountable. Proper constitutional adherence does not give specials a spot in the front of the line.

#21 pathloss on 06.30.13 at 12:43 pm

From city ordinances, they regard a tree on your lot as theirs and can force you to replace it. Code & policy make no sense. What citizens must realize is your best action is no action. For trees, they’ll tell you to cut it then come back and tell you to replace it. There’s no record keeping and separate city personnel will mandate opposing action. They do it to look busy until they can relax into retirement.

No matter what the threat, there’s no method to collect fines or force action. Circuit court will not hear the case because city civil procedures are uncondtitional. If you respond at all, it’s an admission of guilt. Your only action should be a smile or grin. They are more entertaining than a comedy club.

#22 rufusx on 06.30.13 at 4:18 pm

You see – this is the kind of wildly hyperbolic rhetorical BS that just makes no sense. Pathloss – please ecxp;lain to me how the city removing a damaged tree from a city boulevard is “unconstitutional”. Cite an actual clause of the US constitution that is relevant or any relevant SCOTUS deecision. (This should be good.)

#23 rufusx on 06.30.13 at 4:23 pm

BTW – no one in the3 city government claims that a tree on your lot is THEIRS. What they do say is gthat if you want to use your property to grow a tree – you must maintain that tree in a safe and healthy condition. Why? – to assure you do not create unsafe conditions for those that may be on or next to your property, and to assure that you do not harbor a diseased tree that results in damages to your neighbors’ trees. Again – you confuse use regulations with ownership. You need more than ONE bucket to sort different things out into. Throwing them all into one bucket does NOT lead to a clear understanding of the differences between things.

#24 rufusx on 06.30.13 at 4:28 pm

Me me me me me me me. I I I I I I I. They they they they they they. You you you you you you you.

(Please note – NONE of these words appear in the constitution).

There is only one pronoun that appears there. WE. – It is plural and all inclusive – not distinctive. The language of anti-governistas is NOT spoken or written in concordance with the spirit of the constitution.

#25 Detroit Lewis on 06.30.13 at 7:05 pm

Interesting. Maybe the SF city government needs to be reminded of the word ‘WE’. Because it seems like there is a lot of ‘I’ people there right now.

Because showing up and cutting down the ‘WE’ tree, without telling ‘I’ or ‘ME’ seems to be against the ‘WE’

Ruf, maybe PL will borrow you some of his meds, ‘WE’ both helped pay for them after he paid for us.

#26 Craig on 07.01.13 at 8:39 am

Better be careful… next thing you know there will be a petition drive to put this to a vote of the people, then we will need a three panel board to review each tree and determine if it meets the criteria for removal. We will need an appeals process if the property owner objects, and then we will need a final decision by an arbitrator.

Or the city could just start sending property owners letters a week or two in advance of tree removal giving them options and they could tag each tree scheduled for removal with a orange ribbon and label with details for at least a week prior. Yes it would mean one more trip to the neighborhood… but it would go a long way towards selling the whole “we are in this together” concept.

#27 Testor15 on 07.01.13 at 8:59 am

There once was a time the trees would be marked ahead of the chainsaw and it seemed to work well. It let everyone know which trees were to be cut down and if there was a potential error, it could be addressed.

#28 rufusx on 07.01.13 at 2:35 pm

Tree boards do exactly what Craig suggests. They are REQUIRED if a city wants to be a “Tree City USA”. Note – SF is NOT a “Tree City USA”. Please – let’s add another board, and another bureaucratic process. Screw small government.

#29 Detroit Lewis on 07.01.13 at 3:26 pm

Not asking for a ‘Tree Board’ just asking the city practices a little courtesy. Is that too much to ask?

As I was visiting a friend a little bit ago just east of Avera, I saw two public works guys out spray painting sidewalks and leaving pink notices on doors about cracks. I thought that code enforcement and complaint basis only handled this kind of stuff. Now were paying public works employees to turn in people. WOW.

#30 scott on 07.01.13 at 8:25 pm

If there is a law or ordinance for “civic duty”, it isn’t civic duty.

#31 Craig on 07.02.13 at 8:47 am

“I thought that code enforcement and complaint basis only handled this kind of stuff. Now were paying public works employees to turn in people.”

How do you know there weren’t complaints called in? For all you know those public works employees were responding to a complaint which is what brought them there. I suppose they could mark one property and ignore the obvious heaving at a property next door but that would be slightly inefficient when they have to come out the next week after another complaint.

By the way DL, I know a woman who admitted to me she got so tired of having to duck under tree branches during her walk that she started carrying a pen and paper and wrote down every address that had tree branches in need of trimming. She then called the city and gave them a list of addresses in her neighborhood. Within a few weeks – branches were all trimmed.

Now think for a second if you saw two guys from the city walking around and tagging trees – you would probably assume they are just out picking on people and we would have a blog story about how the city should be trimming “their property” and how project TRIM is just a failure and how MMM is somehow to blame for tree growth.

The amazing thing about all this is property owners can go out and look at their own sidewalks and repair them before the city ever has to hand out notifications. Those homeowners know the sidewalks need repair, but instead of you calling out the homeowner for failing to address the problem, you immediately jump on the city for responding to it.

So much for a ‘civic partnership’.

One final note – if you have ever seen anyone try to push a wheelchair down some of the sidewalks in our fair city, you would soon realize how important it is to get those things fixed. The tripping hazards are one thing, but for someone in a wheelchair or power scooter a heaved sidewalk can be a significant hurdle (pardon the pun).

#32 rufusx on 07.02.13 at 8:43 pm

Wheelchairs – that’s the easy stuff. Have been watching about a 7-8 year-old blind child being taught how to navigate around my little town for the past year or so. What do you do as that child when the sidewalk just ends mid-block somewhere along your route to school – or the store? Divert to the street like the seeing people do? How do you know when the sidewalk might resume? How can you detect a low-hanging tree-branch, or overgrown shrub with your cane? Do you nay-sayers to ordinance enforcement give a crap at all about making the effort to even consider anyone who may have a different set of life circumstances to yours when it come to what the city ought to do about sidewalks, trees, trash, etc? Really – GROW FRIKKIN’ UP!!

#33 rufusx on 07.02.13 at 8:46 pm

It IS your civic duty to be civilized, which in my book means to act with consideration for others. And if you’re not mature and considerate and sophisticated enough to be civilized – then there needs to be a law (ordinance) to assure that civilization prevails – and you do not.

#34 l3wis on 07.04.13 at 1:06 pm

“Wheelchairs – that’s the easy stuff.”

I would have to agree with you, which brings up something I have long been irked by. I see code enforcement go around residential neighborhoods dinging people for cracks and scooping snow, but guess where I see most of the wheelchair traffic, and major streets. While Cliff is decent, and Minnesota OK, the sidewalks along 41st street are a disaster. It amazes me that the street with the most retail traffic has sidewalks that look like a bomb hit them yet we are concerned about Joe Blow’s crack on Van Eps avenue. If the city really is concerned about the sidewalk situation in this town for wheelchair users they would have ‘cracked down’ on business owners along 41st street.

#35 Bettt barnes on 10.28.17 at 4:08 pm

Who do you call when dead trees limbs hang across the street and laying on wires. Overgrown
rown and a mess. Wind blows and power goesoff and a mess. During ice storm couple years ago no heat for days. This neighbor refuses to do anything about them. Wind last few day branches all over the parking and my front lawn. Trying to find someone to clean the mess.

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