Trees of contention

Published 8:12 pm Saturday, August 16, 2014

The willow oak trees in Golf Villages, a Harbour View community, which a homeowners’ association board is asking homeowners to consider removing, citing problems including proximity to utilities and a ruptured water line.

The willow oak trees in Golf Villages, a Harbour View community, which a homeowners’ association board is asking homeowners to consider removing, citing problems including proximity to utilities and a ruptured water line.

Homeowners in a Harbour View community are being asked to consider availing themselves of a discounted price to remove and replace trees that some say are starting to damage sidewalks and utilities.

A recent letter to Golf Villages homeowners from their association’s architectural review board says homeowners have requested that the community “address” a situation involving willow oaks on two streets, South Links Circle and Soundings Crescent.

But while some homeowners do say the trees should be removed, others would prefer to keep their trees. And after an “extensive review,” the city of Suffolk says it found no issues caused by the trees.

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Under scrutiny, according to the letter, are 270 trees, 232 of them on homeowner property and 38 on association-owned land.

Problems detailed in the letter include trees blocking sidewalks and driveways, roots damaging the concrete, and in some cases, trees planted too close to utility and water lines.

“One water line was already ruptured by roots,” the letter states.

Meanwhile, the trees are blocking many streetlights and signs, “causing safety issues.”

“They pose a problem,” said Vincent Wright, a homeowner on South Links, who cited the threat of trees falling on homes and leaves accumulating in gutters.

He also cited sap dropping onto cars.

“A lot of the people here have very expensive automobiles,” he said. “My wife had to put her car through the carwash twice just to get the sap off.”

According to city spokeswoman Diana Klink, an “extensive review” over the past two years by the Public Utilities Department found one repair for a tapping saddle at the water main, “but no issues pertaining to trees/roots.”

“Further, after a thorough review of service requests, Public Works was not able to identify any sidewalk repairs, driveway apron repairs or underground storm water drainage pipe repairs which were the result of damage caused by tree roots in the vicinity of South Link Circle or Soundings Crescent,” Klink stated.

But homeowner Gina Diggs said it would be “smart” to “think ahead” and remove the trees now, “before it becomes a problem.”

According to the letter, as well as a group rate for tree removal, the association board is also researching replacement options. But Diggs wasn’t keen on replacing the willow oaks.

“I’m not too keen on replacing it,” she said of a tree on her property. “That would be setting us up to having to do it again in another 15 years.”

But, she added, “On the flipside, we need trees. We can’t just knock them down without having some sort of plan.”

Larry Hinkle said he’d like to keep his tree. “I don’t think it’s necessary for all the trees,” he said.

Down the street, Lars Olsen said he’s been growing his willow oaks for 13 years and doesn’t want them removed.

“Basically, I’m not thrilled,” Olsen said. “I know they talk about the roots coming up but I don’t have that problem as of yet.”

The board has asked homeowners to think about what might happen in the future if they choose to keep their trees. “Take a look at your willow oaks and assess any damage from roots, etc.,” the letter suggests.

“Start thinking about whether you want to remove some or all of your trees while we have a volume price. Also, consider the consequences of root damage, etc. from waiting.”

“I’m vacillating about taking ours out or not,” said Linda Cameron, a master gardener on South Links who said she serves on the tree committee.

“The longer we wait, the worse the problem is going to be.”

The biggest roadblock to removing the trees, Cameron says, is that not everyone plans to live in Golf Villages long-term. There are a lot of military families, she noted.

“They are probably thinking, ‘Why would I go through this expense?’” Cameron said.

“These are beautiful street trees, but the roots grow too wide. They have already started affecting sidewalks and driveways.”