Some Rolling Meadows residents are mourning the loss of old-growth trees cut down Friday and Saturday from property in their northwest side neighborhood, but city officials say the land's owner was within his rights.
Neighbors especially wanted three centuries-old oaks at 4500 Fairfax Ave. saved, said Karen Reynolds, who lives across the street. One was left standing, but stripped of so many limbs she fears it will not survive.
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"People bought homes here because the area is heavily wooded," said her husband, Stan Reynolds. "(The land owner) could have gotten a lot of money building maybe fewer houses on wooded lots."
City Manager Barry Krumstok said Monday that no permit is needed to remove trees from private property. The owner of the property has talked to staff at city hall, but not submitted official plans yet, he said.
The land's owner could not be reached for comment Monday.
Karen Reynolds said a man who told neighbors he was the owner said he planned to build a cul-de-sac and five houses on the site.
Stan Reynolds estimates the remaining oak is as tall as 70 feet, and said he counted almost 100 rings in a limb that had been removed, causing him to believe the tree is much older than a century. The three oaks were "magnificent" together, he said.
About 15 to 20 area residents were at the scene Saturday, with more stopping by for a while, said Stan Reynolds. At one point they called police, who asked the neighbors to stay on the south side of Fairfax and the owner to stay on the north side.
A few neighbors were allowed to talk to the owner to make sure their trees were not removed in error, Stan Reynolds said.
He said police should have stopped the demolition because the company cutting the trees did not have a license to operate in Rolling Meadows. They obtained one Monday, Krumstok said.
Joanne Kroll, whose yard borders the land involved, said the prospective developer should have gotten his plans approved before taking down trees.
"Maybe he'll be able to do what he plans, maybe he won't," she said. "Maybe he could have saved some of the trees for some of the homes."
One small, vacant house stands on the property, Stan Reynolds said. Kroll knew the homeowner, who died about a decade ago.
"Alice and her husband built that house," Kroll said. "Alice loved her yard and she would have been very sad. That's one reason I am emotional about this. I will be upset on her behalf."
Kroll said she also is worried about the wildlife that lives in the woods.
"It looked like a war zone to us," Karen Reynolds said.