Ripping up of lilac bush raises a stink |

Ripping up of lilac bush raises a stink

Jeremy Heiman

A dispute involving the illegal destruction of a well-known lilac bush in Aspen’s West End may be close to resolution.

A contractor removed the large old lilac from a piece of public land in an alley between Hyman and Hopkins last week, arousing the wrath of a neighbor. But those involved have agreed to resolve the matter by replacing the bush with another large lilac, though it won’t be quite the same as the old one.

The bush was just outside the private property line of a lot where a new second home is being built for man from Missouri. The bush was removed by a crew clearing an area for an additional parking place behind the house.

Mac Boelens, who lives next to the lot, said he came home for lunch one day last week and saw that the bush, which stood between 10 and 12 feet high, had been removed. He confronted the operator of a track hoe, who said he was merely following orders issued by Barr Construction, the general contractor on the job.

The incident was investigated Monday by Stephen Ellsperman, forester for the city of Aspen. He decided that an offense had been committed, in that vegetation had been removed from a city right of way.

But Ellsperman said that architect Gretchen Greenwood, project manager for the job, has located another bush of similar size that will be removed from another construction site in Aspen and placed in the old bush’s place.

Further, Boelens said, Greenwood offered to replant the remaining roots of the bush in his yard, in the hope that they would eventually sprout a new lilac. Boelens said the lilac that had been removed was unique, with its dark purple blooms and a yellow rose vine winding through it.

“It was like no other lilac I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” he said.

Ellsperman said it is the city’s responsibility to take care of the right of way along alleys and city streets, and the city enforces preservation of trees and bushes in those areas. City rights of way extend as much as 12 or 15 feet back from the street in some neighborhoods, he said.

“I want to make it clear that you need a permit to do work on the right of way, specifically in regard to the protection of vegetation,” Ellsperman said.

If the situation had gone unresolved, Ellsperman said, it would have gone before a judge, and the offending party would have been fined. Fines for similar offenses have varied from $200 to $2,000 in the past, he said.

But Boelens said a fine of that magnitude might not be perceived as a threat to those building second homes.

“Money means nothing to these people,” he said. “They just paid $27,000 to get a tree removed.”

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