Batavia officials intend to become less involved in determining whether trees are causing problems on private property.
Changes proposed to its forestry ordinance are intended to make clear the city's concern is only if private trees threaten public health or public property -- such as if a broken limb could fall on an electrical line.
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Streets division superintendent Scott Haines said he has spent an increasing amount of time the last few years dealing with private trees nowhere near a public road, sidewalk or utility. Haines is a certified arborist, and the streets division is responsible for trees in the public rights of way, including parkways.
"There is a significant amount of my time that is spent negotiating between property owners," he said. He was called in on 50 cases last year, Haines said.
The changes were recommended by the city council's joint committees Tuesday.
Haines will still visit a property to help determine who owns a problem tree, and has the right to inspect a tree on private property to see if the tree is a "public nuisance" likely to cause injury to someone on a public sidewalk or street, or damage to public property.
Otherwise, "It basically becomes a civil issue they (neighbors) have to resolve themselves now," Haines said.
He recalled a dispute last summer involving nine trees on four properties, where a fence row had been.
"I had four people really unhappy with me," he said
The city still reserves the right to go on to private property, without the owners' permission, to trim or remove trees if they present an imminent danger to the public. If the danger is not imminent, the city can require the owner to remedy the situation.
The city council will vote on the revisions at an unspecified date.