Residents protest right of way cuts
In the 15 years since Nevada County last trimmed brush and trees along the roadways of Prosser Estates, the greenery has flourished, encroaching into the town-owned right of way – and some Prosser residents want it to remain uncut.
Town of Truckee public works employees met with strong opposition in one Prosser neighborhood this week as they attempted to clear the town right of way in the subdivision. Residents who previously enjoyed a screen of trees between their houses and the road suddenly found they had a clear view of the street after town crews cut trees and brush along the road.
Despite fliers distributed by the town to warn residents of the upcoming cuts, the extent of the change caught some completely unprepared.
Some, who were not full-time residents, came to their homes and found trees gone. Others, who fear that the town will clear trees from its right of way in front of their property, are bracing for a fight.
“It takes a long time to grow a pine tree or aspen out here,” Crocus Drive resident De Tracy, 77, said. “The trees out in front of my house are 20-25 years old and I have six to eight of them out there. I will defend them with my life.”
Tracy, a 15-year resident, said she moved to Prosser to live in a forest.
“We want it to look like a forest,” she said. “We feel that as citizens, we have some rights here, and that this is a beautiful area. We moved into a forest and we love the forest. We want our trees.”
She said the notice stated the town would be cutting brush, not big trees.
Another resident, Richard Jackson, said the town was taking trees too far from the roadway.
“I know they have to have leeway for the snowplow, but the trees in our neighbor’s yard were nowhere near the road,” Jackson said. “They cut seven beautiful trees.”
He said trees the town left in front of his house were closer to the roadway than those cut in front of the neighboring property.
“They chopped down seven beautiful trees and left the two ugliest ones,” he said.
Bill Pierce, Jackson’s neighbor, said he never saw the notice town personnel put out about the planned cut. Pierce lives at the corner of Crocus Court and Crocus Drive.
“They took out six trees right in our front yard, which changed the whole look of our yard and our house,” Pierce said. “They had been groomed for our privacy and to enclose our yard area.”
He said the six trees were about four to five feet from the road and were about four inches in diameter. About 20 small trees were removed from the other side of his property, he said.
“I wish they had discussed it or met with us,” Pierce said. “Everyone is up with a compromise, or if there’s a reason to cut the trees, that’s fine. But to cut the ones that screen the front of our house, give us privacy, seems like a violation.”
Pierce said he accepts a certain amount of fire danger as a consequence of living in a forest, and believes cutting the trees, which were 40 feet from his house, did little to reduce fire hazard.
Kathleen Belden, who lives on the corner of Jeffrey and Pine Forest, said the town removed 14 trees near her property a few weeks ago.
“They took trees up to 10 inches in diameter,” Belden said. “I was furious, but did not know what to do.”
Belden also said she never received the flier from the town advising of the cuts.
“If the wind blew the flier away,then it was not a good notification,” she said. She said the trees served to screen her house from the road.
“Now there are gaping holes,” she said. She said there were often white-headed woodpeckers on the trees which had been cut, but she had not seen the birds since the trees were felled.
The department of public works has suspended further cuts until the residents have a chance to address town council, director Tom Covey said.
“Because of the controversy, we have stopped doing brushing in that part of the neighborhood,” Covey said. “We’ve been doing it for fire management and to clear the right of way for snow removal in all of the neighborhoods. Prosser is just the last one in a two-year project.”
He said there has been no maintenance of the trees in the right of way in the last 15 years, and that all of the trees in have grown there since the subdivision was constructed.
The town right of way extends 30 feet on either side of the road’s center line, Covey said.
He said trees in the right of way have to be removed for a number of reasons, in addition to fire safety.
“Overhanging trees break the windows on the plows,” Covey said. “Also, if they are close to the to the road, we wind up skinning the trees with the plows.” He said trees growing close to the road also cause root damage, lifting and cracking the road surface.
He said shaded roads also ice up badly in the winter.
“Yesterday, a lady told us not to plow snow out there,” Covey said. “That’s silly.”
He said Southwest Gas will soon be running a gas line down the sides of the roads in Prosser, and will need the right o way clear for the gas line installation.
Some residents nailed up signs stating “Endangered Species” on pine trees in the right of way in front of their property. Covey said those signs will have to come down, because they are illegally posted.
“Lodgepole pines are not endangered species,’ he said. “They’re pretty prolific.”
He said the trees which would be removed by the town are only a fraction of the number once removed to build homes in the subdivision.
Personnel from the town walked the neighborhood before the cuts began a month ago and posted fliers on the homes of all residents in the affected area.
The item will be agendized for future town council discussion.
“Our job is to do the will of the people,” Covey said. “If it is the will of all of the people of the town not to do road maintenance, then we’ll go home.”
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