City attorneys handling case of tree vandalism
Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud said this week that whoever damaged a half-dozen city-owned trees recently should be prosecuted “to the full extent of the law.”But as of Wednesday, the case of the topped trees was in the hands of attorneys who indicated a negotiated settlement of some sort is in the works.The “topping,” or removal of the tops of the trees, is believed to have taken place over the weekend of April 8.The trees, a half-dozen cottonwoods about 10 years old, are publicly owned property in the city’s right of way between the sidewalk and the curb. That makes the topping a violation of city codes punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, a year in jail, or both.Although the Aspen Police Department initially investigated, the city attorney’s office took over the case this week, according to city officials.Assistant City Attorney David Hoefer said Wednesday he has opened discussions with local lawyer Fred Peirce, who is representing the limited liability corporation that owns the property adjacent to the topped trees. Peirce declined to identify his client or discuss the case at all, other than to say he is “trying to get it resolved.”A check with Pitkin County showed Rapids East LLC and Plastics Management Inc., both of which are listed at 53196 N. Main St. in Mattawan, Mich., owns the duplex at 926 and 936 E. Hopkins Ave., directly adjacent to the injured trees. The county records included no names of individuals.On Wednesday, Klanderud said that if a perpetrator is identified, “I think that, if guilty, we should prosecute to the full extent of the law. It’s really arrogant. Those are city trees.”Supposing someone topped the trees to improve a view of Aspen Mountain, she said, “everybody loves the views.”She noted that trees now block some of the city’s own protected view planes, “but nobody’s suggested we cut down the trees. This is one of those cases where we balance values, views versus trees.”Terry Leitch, the initial investigator, said Wednesday that “the police involvement in it is on hold” while the attorneys work on it.But according to Leitch, “I guess they have been in contact with the owner of the property … the guy is cooperating, apparently.” Hoefer said the police might resume the case if they need to investigate further.John Colson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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