Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Trimming limbs should be carefully done

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Dec. 17, 2013 at 6:17 a.m.

The city of Victoria is full of beautiful trees. Neighborhoods, especially in the historic areas of town, are home to large numbers of large trees that offer shade to residents' homes and make our city a beautiful place to live.

However, trees tend to grow out in any direction they please, which can become a problem when they overhang city streets. The Victoria City Council has been considering a proposed change to the tree trimming ordinance for the past few weeks. City officials say trees should be trimmed to allow at least a 14-foot clearance for emergency vehicles, but others worry that a blanket ordinance will result in trees being mutilated.

We understand the need for clearance tall enough to easily allow emergency services access to all of Victoria. Fires and medical emergencies happen anywhere and everywhere, and no tree is worth a person's life or home. But at the same time, we encourage the City Council and those responsible for writing this new rule to take into consideration the rights of property owners.

City leaders should create an ordinance that allows some flexibility in the implementation of the rules. Residents who own property with trees that overhang city streets often value those trees because they are beautiful and can increase property values. If the home is one that has been in a family for years or even generations, there are often fond memories associated with those trees. The city should give homeowners plenty of time to bring in a specialist trained to trim back trees without causing unnecessary harm.

We also encourage the city to stress the importance of not damaging trees to any employees or contractors who may be hired to trim back trees around the city if homeowners are unable or unwilling to hire someone to trim the trees themselves. Victoria residents have already dealt with a previous contractor who disfigured trees after Hurricane Claudette in 2003. The city should learn from this experience and make a concerted effort to ensure the same will not happen if and when this ordinance is implemented.

Trees are valuable resources for both the city and residents. They block sunlight, which can help lower power bills in the summer; increase property values; help increase tourism; reduce storm runoff and pollution and give our town a more natural, welcoming atmosphere. These resources need to be maintained and protected. The city, unquestionably, needs to be able to move emergency vehicles through town safely. But the city must also stress the need to be responsible when clearing trees that may impede that movement. The city should consider having a trained arborist who can consult with contractors before trimming back trees to help minimize the impact or damage.

As Jared Mayfield, director of the city's planning services department, said in a previous article, "We'll apply some practical sense to it." A healthy dose of practical sense should be applied in all ordinances. We hope the city will keep that in mind when this rule is enforced.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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