Prosser residents not notified of right-of-way tree cuttings Tuesday morning
Truckee officials are trying to discover how, despite a promised halt on tree cutting in Prosser Estates until residents were properly notified, a resident and Town Council candidate there awoke Tuesday morning to find town employees cutting down trees in his front yard.
Kenn Rieders, his wife Julie and their children awoke at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday to the sound of chainsaws on the street outside his home on Heather Road.
Town of Truckee public works employees were cutting several trees on the streetside edge of his property as part of their right-of-way clearing in the Prosser subdivision – a project that was supposedly temporarily halted in June due to complaints from neighborhood residents.
“I was shocked to see them out there cutting away, totally shocked,” said Julie Rieders.
Kenn Rieders said that it took 45 minutes for the work to be stopped after he called town offices to complain. In that time, at least three large 30-foot lodgepole pines were chopped down, along with several smaller trees and shrubs.
“We didn’t have any notice that this was going to happen today,” said Kenn.
The cutting was stopped when Truckee Town Manager Steve Wright was told it was underway.
“I stopped it immediately,” said Wright. “I told the employees that until further notice they were to stay away from the area.”
Tom Covey, director of the department of public works, admitted a major error had been made.
“We missed a step in the process,” said Covey. “The supervisor in charge dropped the ball, and he has taken full responsibility for it.”
Covey noted that he was not at work on Tuesday, due to a family emergency.
Town crews began cutting down trees in the Prosser area earlier this summer in order to reduce fire hazard and improve snow removal services in winter.
The town’s right-of-way extends 30 feet on either side of the road’s center line, and the town periodically clears trees and vegetation that may impede services.
Cutting in Prosser was temporarily stopped when the town council was told of the complaints, and a system for better notifying residents of the cutting was to be arranged, said Truckee Mayor Maia Schneider.
“We clearly understand that maintaining the town’s roads and right-of-way is a very important part of what we do,” said Schneider. “We had a commitment that we’d have better communication before we continued this project at Prosser, which didn’t happen.
“We blew it,” said Schneider. “I can tell you clearly that the town made a mistake. We did not do what we promised we were going to do.”
On June 19, the department of public works revised their performance standards for the right-of-way clearing project so that proper notification to homeowners would be done. This communication, said Covey, is what was overlooked on Tuesday.
The town last cleared the right-of-way in Prosser 15 years ago, and the trees have grown heavily since then. Covey said the project must continue, but that communication with property owners must be paramount.
“Had I been here [Tuesday] we would have done the same thing,” said Covey. “But only after we met with the Rieders and addressed their concerns.”
Crocus Drive resident De Tracy, 77, has been a vocal advocate of saving the Prosser trees and was shocked to find out about Tuesday’s cuttings.
“I came home from church this morning and there were five little children crying their hearts out in the road,” she said.
Rieders demanded that the cut-down trees be left on his curbside until the issue was resolved with the town.
“I was standing in front of this tree and they were ready to put it into the chipper,” said Kenn, “I said, ‘you can’t chip evidence!'”
The trees were also cut down, claimed the Rieders, without being checked for nesting birds, an action which could have heavy consequences.
“We had a warden from the Fish and Game Department come out,” said Julie Rieders. “He said that it’s a federal crime if the town violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by cutting down trees with nests in them.”
The Rieders said they were unsure if birds were nesting in the cut-down trees, though.
Covey said that the trees were inspected by U.S. Forest Service officials after being cut, and that no nests were found.
Prior to Tuesday’s cuttings, Kenn Rieders had filed with county officials his intention to run for one of the two Truckee Town Council seats open in November’s election.
“Somebody’s got to be environmentally conscious on this council,” Rieders said.
The Rieders believe their house was deliberately targeted by town officials.
“It’s revenge,” said Julie Rieders. “They were sent to our lot. Once the trees are down, what are you going to do?”
Wright firmly denied any malicious intent in the cutting, or that the Rieders had been singled out. The trimming project, according to the town, simply picked up where it left off in Prosser in June.
“I don’t think revenge is the issue at all,” said Wright.
“This is an ongoing program and we are not singling anybody out,” said Covey.
“They’re going to have to answer for this,” De Tracy said. “We went to an awful lot of trouble to try and save these trees – not just our trees but everybody’s trees. I suppose mine will be next.”
A sign had been placed on one of the pines, penned by the Rieders’ children, which read, “Do not cut down are [sic] trees.”
Tuesday morning, the sign lay in a pile of wood chips, next to a freshly-cut stump.
Covey promises that a full investigation will be held in the public works department.
“I will deal with it,” he said. “That’s the extent of what I can say.”
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