Trimming trees, by order of city
Late last week, I had a list of chores around the house, but the city of Janesville sent a "nasty gram" that demanded one more.
OK, it wasn't really nasty. The notice did, however, order me to comply with a city ordinance that requires terrace trees to be trimmed so they're no lower than 7 feet above sidewalks and no lower than 15 feet in the street. It said I had 12 days to comply or the city or a contractor of its choosing “will perform the work and you will be billed for the costs incurred by the city.”
I checked, and it appeared our limbs over the sidewalks were OK but were lower than 15 feet from the street.
I figured it must be the city's efforts to protect those new garbage trucks they'll start using this fall, but apparently that notion was incorrect (more on that later).
I got out the ladders and electric pole saw and went to work, while my wife, Cheryl, and I debated which extra limbs should come off to balance out the remaining lower branches in the crowns. In most cases, I talked her into leaving those that weren't hanging over the street. The base of the largest limb that came off was about the size of my arm.
We have a corner lot and started with the two maples out front, which aren't yet mature. After I'd hacked off about six or eight limbs, Cheryl pointed out that a fairly large limb on our remaining mature ash tree on the side terrace also was hanging too low. She reasonably suggested I lop it off at the base. With the ladders out, I also climbed up far enough to trim a few dead branches out of this ash, which drops sticks nonstop.
Next came cleanup. I have often hauled brush in my little SUV, folding the front seats forward and using an old pickup truck mat that I cut to fit the SUV. With all the limbs on the ground, I knew I was looking at two or perhaps three trips to the landfill. I managed to stuff them into two loads, but several hours had passed before the project was done and my vehicle vacuumed.
Planned repairs under our deck would have to wait. I still had to mow.
Meanwhile, neighbors across the street were frustratingly hacking up two crab apple trees on their terrace after getting a similar city order. The man wanted to cut them down completely, but his wife talked him into chopping off what hung over the street and leaving the trees standing to see if they'd fill out without looking hideous. Time will tell.
On Tuesday I called John Whitcomb, city operations director, for an explanation. He said, no, the city didn't use trash haulers to fan out and pinpoint properties where limbs might damage those new trucks. He said the city isn't proactive in inspections, only doing them when it gets a complaint, which might have indeed come from a trash hauler in our case. If an inspector sees neighboring trees in need of trimming, he or she will issue orders for those properties, too.
Whitcomb's signature appears on the orders, but he told me he doesn't do the actual inspections.
He also pointed out that, on arterial streets, truck traffic often makes a sort of wedge by breaking off branches that aren't properly trimmed.
I'd rather trim the trees myself than have trucks break the branches off, even if, technically speaking, the city owns those terraces where the trees are growing.
On my walk this morning, I saw numerous trees in our neighborhood not in compliance, either hanging low enough on the sidewalk where I must duck or too low over the street. I’m not about to report them to the city, however.