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Dead Trees Target of Scorn in Park Hills

Trees are causing problems in Park Hills.

That's what the city's tree board member Sue Bennings told city council on Monday night, saying that the age of the trees are to blame. Chiefly, a dead tree in a neighbor's yard could fall and damage someone else's property, and that someone else would be responsible for paying for the repairs.  

Because this issue is seemingly causing strife between neighbors, the tree board wants to make people aware of the trouble with dead trees on their property.

"Legally, you have no responsibility," Bennings said, "but morally you do."

The tree board would like to be the initiator of a dialogue between neighbors, Bennings said, and the board will be putting out a public service announcement, telling residents to take care of the trees on their property. Bennings wondered if there is legal support.

"We send the people a letter, and then what?," asked Bennings. "Do we send another letter? Do we threaten?"

City Attorney Todd McMurtry explained that the matter would come under the nuisance ordinance, and if the tree looked like it was going to fall, or has dropped branches already into a public thoroughfare, that constitutes eminent danger, and the city can step in and cut the tree down.

If the tree debris doesn't fall on public property or the neighbor's property but continues to drop debris because the tree is dead, it can be deemed a chronic nuisance, and steps can be taken by the city, McMurtry said.

"It's all there," McMurtry said of the nuisance ordinance. "Then we need to enforce it."

He told Bennings that the city has enforcement capabilities to take care of the dead tree problem, and the penalty can go up to $500.

Mayor Matt Mattone asked whether someone facing this issue would first call the city or their neighbor, and said that, ideally, everybody would take care of their property and cut down the trees if they were dead. Mattone thought it would be a good idea to establish a protocol of what to do if residents were in that situation.

David Gray, who is the city's representative on the Kenton County Planning Commission, suggested that people call Planning & Development Services, which usually responds to the site within a week, and can issue a citation if necessary.

However, resident Sarah Froelich told council that she has had a problem with a neighbor, and that she did talk to the neighbor, but nothing happened, so she talked to PDS, which told her that all that could be done was the delivery of a letter. Gray said that was unusual, because he believes that PDS can do more than that.

Another resident told of a neighbor's tree falling and causing them $5,000 worth of damage, and talking to the neighbor only resulted in the neighbor cutting up some trees that were already down.

Mattone said that the city will put out an announcement about people taking care of the trees on their property, and if anyone believes that a tree is in imminent danger of falling where it could hurt someone, they can call the city building, and the city will get the tree down.

Other notes:
 
The new budget ordinance was read for the first time, and features $3.6 million in anticipated expenses. Discussion resulted in council agreeing that the budget was the end product of good and careful budget management. There will be a special meeting on June 26 before the caucus meeting to pass the budget.
 
The city will consider an ordinance to strengthen its vicious animal law. The change would increase fines from $10 to $500, and would add a misdemeanor criminal penalty. Animal owners in violation would have to pay for the animals' impoundment. 
 
A zoning text amendment to allow windscreens within the city's institutional zone was not ready for consideration, but is needed for Covington Catholic High School to complete construction of its new stadium.
 
Park Hills Police will continue to provide patrol services to the City of Bromley, after winning the contract through 2025 at a rate of $100,000 per year.
 
The police festival, sponsored by the civic association, is scheduled for Saturday, June 24, at 4 p.m., at the church lot across from the city building.
 
Len Riegler Blacktop was awarded the bid to repair Old State Road at a cost of $72,835.50, an amount that council member Pam Spoor said was under the city's estimated cost.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor