City of Sioux Falls, Project TRIM. Ignore it.

Duane, the Tree Trimming CZAR.

Watch Item #7 in the council meeting last night.

Due to three lawsuits against the city that the city lost, the city of Sioux Falls has no constitutional rights to force you to trim THEIR trees in the boulevard. The facts are simple;

• The city OWNS the trees

• The city CARRIES the liability insurance on the boulevard

• The city has NO CONSTITUTIONAL rights to force you to maintain their property

• The city has NO CONSTITUTIONAL rights to charge you for trimming

• The city has NO CONSTITUTIONAL rights to fine you for not trimming their trees

If you don’t trim the trees and the city does it (because it is their responsibility) and they send you a bill. Throw it away. Shred it. Burn it. They have no legal recourse. NONE.

Ironically, in many other cities like Kansas City and even Brookings, SD, it is ILLEGAL to trim city owned tress in the boulevard. It would be like the SFPD sending you a bill for responding to your police call or the city forcing you to mow the public parks. We pay taxes for a reason.

It is obvious that Project TRIM is a boondoggle by the tree trimming businesses in Sioux Falls. They needed the work.

End this stupidity. The city is responsible for their property, you are not.

UPDATE: I also encourage you to watch the snow removal testimony. $200 to remove 3 square feet of snow – NICE. The city acts like dictators, but they have no rights to be dictators. A word of advice; If you have to walk in the winter, wear the proper shoes. Duh.

UPDATE: Councilor Jamison offered fine amendments and it was a tie vote and the mayor had to break the tie, and he voted against the amendments, I’m sure it had to do with ‘being neighborly’ – What amazes me is that the city expects citizens to maintain their property in extreme weather conditions, but when it rains to much, they allow sewage to backup in people’s basements and blame the weather. Well guess what? This is a two-way street, if you can use the weather as an excuse, so can we.



14 comments ↓

#1 Costner on 08.10.10 at 6:32 am

Dead horse… meet l3wis.

Good luck on this one – you are free to burn or shred your bill/fine of course, but eventually the city will resolve this unconstitutionality issue and you will still be on the hook to trim your damn trees.

If you don’t want the responsibility then either don’t plant any trees or don’t buy a house with existing trees. If you have trees and feel it is too much expense or effort to trim them, then by all means tear them out. The city won’t force you to plant new ones unless you wish to have them.

You always cite Brookings and Kansas City because their policy differs, but what about Sioux City, Mitchell, Watertown, Vermillion, Rapid City, Aberdeen, Huron, or several thousand other towns and cities in the region? I bet if you take a poll you will find the vast majority require homeowners to maintain the trees just as they maintain the sidewalks.

People that continually whine about tree trimming (and who also complain that the city parks department has a bloated budget as it is) should live in apartments where they aren’t bothered by silly tasks like mowing lawns or trimming trees. Why not complain that the city makes you mow the lawn in the boulevard when they own it? Why not complain they make you remove snow from a sidewalk or repair a sidewalk when they own it?

Pure idiocy. Build a bridge and get over it already.

#2 l3wis on 08.10.10 at 6:36 am

You obviously did not watch the video. Watch it. Then come back and discuss.

You may ‘personally’ feel you should trim those trees, good for you, do it. I did it, because I was able. I’m just saying, if you are not capable, or don’t have the money to pay someone, then don’t. The city can’t force you.

The city will get their ass handed to them in the constitutional case.

#3 l3wis on 08.10.10 at 6:48 am

I would also like for you to point to the what constitutional rights the city has to force people to maintain their property?

#4 Plaintiff Guy on 08.10.10 at 7:56 am

City is unconstitutional and unrecognized by rule of law. If you have a fine, ignore it. Paying or correcting is an admission of guilt. They can’t force you to do anything because there is no appeal into court (you or they).

When ordinances change and courts accept, enforcement will be from that day forward. If they previously cited you they can’t cite you again (double jeopardy). In other words, what exists now is and can always be. If you want to open a ‘Buy Here-Pay Here’ car lot in your front yard, do it now.

Don’t trim trees in public right-of-way (front from the sidewalk). They can charge you for damage to public property and/or they can fine you for not trimming. In other words, doing anything gets you into the city maze lasting 5 years with major irritation and without conclusion.

City mandated tree trimming in public areas is taxpayer liablity when there is injury or death. Trimming one limb could cost us $10 million.

#5 Plaintiff Guy on 08.10.10 at 8:08 am

l3wis and I are victims of Munson code enforcement strong arm tactics. We’re upset that a dictator mayor can freely and unconstitutionally persecute citizens. With Home Rule Charter, opposition (free speech) is not allowed.

Home Rule has become so twisted that the best answer is repealing (or state revocation) and returning to constitutional democracy.

Government of, by, and for the people isn’t so bad. Huether may not like it but the majority will.

#6 Costner on 08.10.10 at 9:42 am

I would also like for you to point to the what constitutional rights the city has to force people to maintain their property?

The constitution does not grant rights to anyone. It merely PROTECTS rights that we have. Thus you cannot search the constitution to locate a specific area which grants a city the ability to do specific things. Instead, what you must do is locate areas within the Constitution which are being ignored or threatened – which would deem the action to be unconstitutional.

Clearly the fact the city doesn’t allow for an appeal (due process) interferes with the constitution… but I don’t think you will find a valid constitutional argument that allows a person to forego mowing a lawn or maintaining a sidewalk within the constitution.

#7 Shyne on 08.10.10 at 9:56 am

What about mowing the grass in the boulevard? Would it fall under the grass must be less than x inches? What about when the “city owned” trees push up your sidewalk and you are forced to spend the $500 to fix your city mandated sidewalk? Next thing the city will do is have cameras pointed at everyones house that will automatically fine you for any actions the city does not like.

#8 l3wis on 08.10.10 at 12:11 pm

“I don’t think you will find a valid constitutional argument that allows a person to forego mowing a lawn or maintaining a sidewalk within the constitution.”

Exactly. So you agree, the city has no authority in this matter.

#9 Costner on 08.10.10 at 12:20 pm

I did watch the video… I guess I didn’t see anything new there. Project TRIM has been around six years now and as far as I know it hasn’t really changed. Also, according to the ordinance, the tree trimming heights were around since 1957, so it isn’t like anyone can argue the city slipped this policy in when they weren’t looking. The only thing that has changed is that the city is being a little more proactive rather than relying upon complaints.

They also give everyone a warning so it isn’t like they run around at night trimming trees and then sending bills. Frankly some pieces of their policy are merely safety items. I can drive down several roads in town and point out dead trees that are just waiting for a strong wind to blow over and cause property damage or even injury. Even living trees can cause damage to vehicles if they aren’t maintained.

Now as to the guy who voiced his complaints about the boulevard trees, that is the same issue you seem to raise. He doesn’t want to maintain the trees and really doesn’t want anything to do with them – but if that is the case he just remove the tree and be done with it. Granted he needs a permit, but as the rep from the parks department said he has never turned down a permit to remove a tree. That isn’t any different than needing a permit to build a fence or a deck or pour a new parking pad.

So unless someone bought their house before 1957 I’m not sure I have any sympathy if they don’t want to maintain a boulevard tree.

#10 Costner on 08.10.10 at 12:22 pm

Exactly. So you agree, the city has no authority in this matter.

At the present time – due to the ongoing appeal by the city – I would argue they can’t really do much, but there is no constitutional issue with the tree trimming or lawn mowing itself… merely the appeals process that comes after the fact.

#11 l3wis on 08.10.10 at 12:24 pm

So you agree, I don’t have to trim their trees?

As for cutting down the tree, I would love them to, but I’m not paying for it.

#12 Costner on 08.10.10 at 12:27 pm

Until the case is settled and they figure out if they need to modify the system (I would argue they need to), then I’d say you don’t have to trim the trees. However, if they end up winning the case (doubtful) and you have several fines recorded at the time… don’t complain when they assess you for them.

As to cutting down the tree… you knew it was there when you bought the house and as such it is your responsibility – ignorance of the law has never been an acceptable defense for noncompliance.

#13 Plaintiff Guy on 08.10.10 at 12:35 pm

The city asks you to fix sidewalks. They can do it and impose a special property tax assessment. You do it because the city charges to much. Mowing their area is voluntary. When you maintain your yard you want it to look good and do the city portion also. It’s an unqualified assessment because it’s landscaping improvement and not repair.

What they say you owe, you don’t. Wait till they take you to court, they can’t. Present ordinances make violations unenforceable.

You don’t have to protect yourself from this government. They’ve painted themselves into a corner. It’s hard but just ignore them.

#14 Think Code Enforcement is bad in Sioux Falls? — South DaCola on 03.04.12 at 11:31 pm

[…] the other day in the Non-Free online Newspaper complaining about tree trimming. Funny how 1) I brought to attention the insanity of Project TRIM a few years back 2) He thinks snowgates are silly, but he is tired of the city harassing him about tree trimming. […]