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Posted on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 : 9:50 p.m.

Pittsfield residents get township's help in dispute over tree removal beneath power line

By Art Aisner

The Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees passed a resolution tonight asking a utility company to delay removing tall trees that border a subdivision on the township’s north side.

The vote is largely a symbolic gesture in support of the four dozen residents from the Farmview Estates subdivision. They're challenging the ITC Holdings Corporation’s claim that the 60 or so arborvitaes pose a safety risk to their power lines.

The concerned homeowners who live along Beech Drive hope the township's action will bolster their push for a court injunction, which will likely be filed by Friday, said resident Cheryl Wasson.

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Trees targeted for removal are shown in this file photo.

Crews are expected to start removing trees next week, according to an ITC flyer recently circulated throughout the subdivision.

“We want all the help we can get because they’re a big company with a lot of resources and don’t have anything but time,” said Wasson, a resident since 1995.

She and her husband, Paul, have researched the legal issues and helped mobilize the neighborhood with a petition, organizational meetings and collection drives for attorney fees since ITC announced the tree removal in mid-November.

In December, the residents placed yellow caution tape that still remains around the trees, along with notes urging ITC employees not to destroy them.

The group is in the process of hiring its own independent forester to inspect the trees and assess ITC’s criteria for removal.

They asked the township for help, and officials were able to delay the scheduled cuts on at least two occasions while lawyers researched how much the municipality can get involved.

Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal said they offered to maintain the trees for the residents but ITC, which technically owns the property, refused due to company policy. She said township officials were ultimately advised not to assist the residents financially because the matter involved private property rights and only affected a small group of residents, not the community as a whole.

The resolution was passed unanimously tonight without much discussion.

Officials from the offices of U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, and State Rep. Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, are also involved in the process.

Novi-based ITC recently settled a case with Ypsilanti Township resident Bill Riney, who spent two days in the tall pine trees along his property over the summer to protest ITC’s demands to cut them down. The company took him to court to establish easement rights and paid nearly $10,000 after a judge ruled in its favor.

The Pittsfield residents say they're aware ITC owns the easements, and they aren't opposed to trimming the trees to minimize safety concerns. They said they feel their situation is unique because their homes face a busy side street without any trees.

The residents hope a forester’s expert opinion about the growth rate and impact of just trimming the trees will help their case.

“We’re going to see parked cars and have all the noise from traffic right in our faces, it’s essentially going to be an alley,” Wasson said. “The consequences down the road for our property values, our privacy and peace of mind are just too severe.”

ITC spokesman Joe Kirik said trees growing in a wire zone - the area under and 10 feet outside the wire - will be targeted for removal, with priority emphasis given to incompatible, tall-growing species.

“The safety of homeowners and the reliability of the transmission system are top priorities,” Kirik said in a written statement. “In this instance, we are within our rights of ways as set forth in the relevant utility easement, which gives ITC the right to trim or cut down any trees which may interfere or grow to the point of interfering with both the operation and maintenance of the line.”

Art Aisner is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Thu, Feb 11, 2010 : 1:40 p.m.

The idiotic tree management policies and practices of DTE damage their public image. Can they possibly make a logical argument about removing those trees that the average person would think makes sense? Tell me how they might fall over and damage the power lines that are 20 feet above them. Tell me how they might ever get big enough to do that. C'mon, DTE, I have an open mind, talk to me and convince me.


Thu, Feb 11, 2010 : 12:28 p.m.

The liability question for Pittsfield Township should be investigated. Resolutions should be researched before being so quickly offered as a paltry olive branch.


Thu, Feb 11, 2010 : 12:24 p.m.

Hey BM's Ghost, ITC contracts out all their tree trimming to the lowest bidder. The jokers that cut a wide swath through the power lines corridor are there to do it as quickly as they can and get the heck out of there and maximize their profits. It's not out of the realm to ask that they are held accountable to the general public. No one has asked them to put the power lines at risk. They're asking for a cogent and realistic approach toward their practices. That's not too much to ask.


Thu, Feb 11, 2010 : 11:13 a.m.

Again I'm not a treehugger by any means but the wires are so high up I can't possibley see how they can or ever wiil interfere with thgose lines.BTW I know exactly where those lines are and how close they are to the wires and/or towers


Thu, Feb 11, 2010 : 10:02 a.m.

I live on property that borders an ITC power line. I can attest that ITC is completely indiscriminent in clearing their right-of-way. After they've come through the R-O-W, it looks like a war zone. Owners of other right of ways have to provide for the maintenance of their property in a fashion that doesn't negatively impact the value of their neighbors property value. Perhaps ITC can work with neighborhoods and municipalities to make good use of the property in the R-O-W. In other states the R-O-Ws are used for farming, parks and athletic fields. How about ITC trying to be a good neighbor?


Thu, Feb 11, 2010 : 9:16 a.m.

I've never liked arbor vitae, but that aside, the trees are in the utility right-of-way. The utility has the right/responsibility to maintain the right-of-way in the manner it sees fit. If that means clearing the trees, then the utility is within its legal rights to do that. I don't think the homeowner can reasonably claim that removing illegally planted trees will damage his property value, since the person/persons who planted them there had no right to do that in the first place.


Thu, Feb 11, 2010 : 7:46 a.m.

Just to clear the air I own the home pictured. We did get a copy of the easement when we bought. It states the DTE can cut or trim any tree that can fall or potentially fall onto the lines. These lines are over 40 feet in the air. the trees under the lines are fully mature at a height of 12-14 feet 25 feet under the line and have been at this height for 15 years the federal government found after the 2003 blackout any tree that could pose a threat as having a 14 inch diameter trunk. These won't get to half that. the reason the best I can figure for them to do what they are is that the mandate they following says they have to bring the process and procedures up to date and they can pass the cost on to consumers after the mandate runs out it will be operating cost so if they cut them they wont have that expense for 50-75 years (there's no trimming if you cut the trees down). Also they do their inspection by airplane according to the federal report to the president. You can't judge clearance or type of tree from the air only if there is or isn't a tree. if they clear cut they could do their inspection from satellite images


Wed, Feb 10, 2010 : 11:16 p.m.

I believe those wires were there long before those houses, and even longer before those trees.


Wed, Feb 10, 2010 : 9:33 p.m.

Unlike the Riney fellow in Ypsi Township, it looks like these folks had already received their $ years ago from ITC for an easement. They probably never thought this day would happen, but it did. True, many of them likely bought a house with the easement already there, but I bet their property values reflected this situation already. Somewhere in the past, somebody was paid to grant an easement for these utility lines. I don't recall reading that Riney had Ypsi Township officials fighting for him at all (nor did they likely want to), so I guess these folks should be thankful. Sounds like ITC doesn't have to do anything short of calling out for the saws. Sad, but likely true.


Wed, Feb 10, 2010 : 7:06 p.m.

If DTE had invested in burying lines underground like the US did for Germany after WW2 we wouldn't have as many power outages and we wouldn't lose as many trees. Germany doesn't lose power because we buried their lines but we lose power every time we have a wind storm.


Wed, Feb 10, 2010 : 7:04 p.m.

I thought they were a green company. Which means hopefully they will do everything in their power to save the trees. And help the residents in the neighborhood.


Wed, Feb 10, 2010 : 6:22 p.m.

I'm no tree hugger but aren't those power lines well above the trees?