Judge extends order barring power company from cutting trees in Pittsfield Township
A Washtenaw County judge has extended a restraining order preventing a power company from continuing to cut trees along a Pittsfield Township neighborhood until a court hearing later this month.
Circuit Judge Donald Shelton signed a second emergency injunction barring ITC Holdings Corp. from cutting trees along Beech Drive just hours after crews began trimming arborvitaes this morning. The order extends a prior injunction signed by Circuit Judge Melinda Morris late last week and now includes the entire street, and not just the eight homeowners who filed a lawsuit.
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Morris, who was unavailable to address the matter because of the President’s Day holiday, had previously scheduled a hearing for Feb. 24.
Residents climbed into the trees this morning to prevent crews from cutting.
“They just starting showing up with an army of trucks and took some down before I could get in,” Joel Mewton said by his cell phone while sitting in one the trees lining his property just before 9 a.m.
It was unclear how many trees were cut before crews received word of Shelton’s order.
ITC spokesman Joe Kirik said the crews were out and performing their scheduled maintenance duties on the properties not included in the court order until Shelton reached the company by telephone
The Novi-based company, which acquired the right-of-way containing the trees from DTE in 2000, is required to remove trees in the area under and 10 feet outside power lines, he said.
“The judge extended the order to the cover the street and the next step will be the hearing,” Kirik said. “But we feel that given it’s our easement, we have full right to trim or to cut.”
Pittsfield Township police officers were called to the neighborhood and remained on scene until the crews left late this morning, Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal said.Â She said she was surprised to receive calls from distressed neighbors and went to the scene to assist.
“We’re talking about a loophole. They were using a strict interpretation of the ruling,” said Grewal, who was active in negotiations with the company to delay cutting on two previous occasions.
“It’s a very aggressive stance for them to be taking with a community that has worked cooperatively with them to find an amicable solution for both sides.”