City getting to root of tree case
Aspen’s latest case of tree vandalism remains a somewhat shady mystery.City officials still have not identified the culprit who lopped the top off six city-owned cottonwood trees on Aspen’s east side and say whoever it was never got a permit to do any sort of work on those trees.Assistant City Attorney David Hoefer, who is in charge of investigating the case, said Wednesday that he had not yet had any talks with the attorney representing the owner of property immediately adjacent to the topped trees.The attorney, longtime local Fred Peirce, declined to comment on the case except to say, “This was a mistake, and the owner acknowledges that it’s a mistake, and he’s trying to get it fixed.”Peirce said the property owner, whom he would not identify, has been “trying, through his property manager, to get the trees replaced at his [the owner’s] cost.” According to Aspen’s urban forester, Aaron Reed, replacement could cost as much as $15,000 for all six trees.The trees in question are broadleaf cottonwoods planted on the grassy strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb in front of a duplex at 926 and 936 E. Hopkins Avenue.According to Pitkin County records, Rapids East LLC owns half the duplex, and Plastics Management Inc. owns the other half. Both are listed at 53196 N. Main St. in Mattawan, Mich. No names of individuals are attached to the county records for the property.The trees, which are about 10 years old, are public property in the city’s right of way between the sidewalk and the curb, making the topping a violation of city codes punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, a year in jail, or both.After the Aspen Police Department initially investigated the case, the city attorney’s office took over last week, and is working in conjunction with the city’s parks department and Reed.Reed and Hoefer agreed that the tree damage it is an important matter that must be resolved to the public’s satisfaction.”You don’t know how many times I get stopped in a day and asked about this,” Reed said Thursday.Hoefer said the city will hold the contractor that actually did the topping of the trees responsible because any work on trees in the city’s right of way requires that the contractor be licensed by the city and have a tree permit to do the work.Reed said the city never issued a permit for work on the topped cottonwoods, meaning the topping was doubly illegal under the city’s codes. It is against the law for anyone to work on trees without such a permit, and even with a permit, it is illegal for someone to chop off as much of a treetop as apparently happened in this case.John Colson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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