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Posted on Sat, Mar 20, 2010 : 11:09 a.m.

Pittsfield Township neighbors, power company agree to temporary tree-cutting restrictions

By Art Aisner

Attorneys for a group of Pittsfield Township neighbors and a power company that wants to cut down trees along their property lines agreed to temporary cutting restrictions Friday as their dispute heads to trial.

In an order signed by Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Melinda Morris, ITC Holdings Corp. agreed to trim any arborvitaes more than 19-feet tall that currently line properties along Beech Drive.

The company threatened to remove the trees entirely to protect power lines in the area last fall and began doing so last month until residents sued.

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ITC workers began removing trees on Feb. 15 until residents sued.

ITC crews began removing trees on several properties that were not part of the lawsuit on Feb. 15 until residents objected and called township authorities. At their urging, Morris issued a restraining order prohibiting any cutting until a future hearing.

The temporary agreement authorizes ITC to remove the trees if they exceed 19 feet in the future. It also allows the company to remove any vegetation within 10 feet of power-line towers, and any deciduous trees 19 feet high or taller from the base of the towers.

Nearly two dozen residents who expected an evidentiary hearing in open court Friday waited roughly three hours while attorneys haggled over the language in Morris’ chambers.

“It’s a good day for arborvitae and a bad day for deciduous trees,” said Walter Hamilton, the residents’ attorney, as he explained the agreement to his clients in the courtroom. “It’s not a permanent solution, but it’s a framework for a long-term solution.”

Some homeowners said they were pleased the agreement allowed them to keep the arborvitae, which are critical for screening and property values. They said they also were glad to retain some control over their fate as long as the trees are maintained.

But others present weren’t impressed.

“I think it’s bad,” said Joel Mewton, who learned Friday he’ll likely lose a large maple tree bordering the easement and his property. “ITC has shown itself, and what’s to stop them? The residents don’t have the trust in them to act with reasonable discretion.”

ITC officials said the cutting is necessary to comply with a federal mandate to protect the lines, which can sag by as much as 30 feet when carrying large loads of electricity during warm weather.

The Novi-based company purchased the easement from DTE in 2000 and hadn't had an issue with these trees until last fall. They are currently involved in legal disputes with residents in Clinton Township and resolved an unrelated suit involving trees on an Ypsilanti Township man’s property earlier this year.

“ITC appreciates that tree removal can be a sensitive issue for property owners,” ITC spokesman Robert Darmanin said in a written statement issued Friday night.

Morris set a May 28 trial date.

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



Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 9:59 a.m.

The line where the black out occurred was the highest in the region at 345kv the lines in Pittsfield twp are the lowest rated transmission lines 128kv. all recommendations from FERC are for lines 220kv and above


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 9:29 a.m.

again Bob you speak of which you obviously don't know the facts in the federal 2003 blackout report states in more than 1 place mainly p61 the tree that triggered the ground fault was an accadia tree (Tree of heaven) it was 6 feet taller than the line. Also, there were others within this specific area over 60' tall the line was 36'. In the report. ITC was sight for causing the blackout for shutting monitoring systems down and not telling other stations, improper training, not manning monitor sites, resetting breakers with finding out what tripped them which caused major power surges. which made power uncontrollable until luckily a DTE employee at the power plant saw what was going on and took the plant off line. Had it simply been a tree contacting a line and ITC would of done what they should the power would of rerouted around the area. It was ITC cost cutting not paying for properly trained personel no system upgrades. and just plain no staffing. Why do you think the government came down so hard on them.

Basic Bob

Tue, Mar 23, 2010 : 8:34 p.m.

@ADTB, maybe you remember we had a major blackout in 2003. According to official reports, this was caused by high temperatures, high current, line sag, and infrequent tree trimming. Did you see the line sag in Ohio? No? Neither did anyone else. However that doesn't mean it never happened. The lines don't have to actually touch the trees in order for an arc to form. The goal of electrical safety is for the lines to NEVER short out to the trees, during wind storms, ice buildup, hot days, etc. In the homeowners' defense, the arborvitae does not grow appreciably during the maintenance cycle (probably 6 years or so). ANYONE, what is the voltage on these lines?

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Mon, Mar 22, 2010 : 7:01 a.m.

Bob: I've been through that area many many times and I've absolutely never seen the lines sag to the point where they're anywhere near the trees. No doubt that the trees need to be trimmed to keep them in the safe zone, but this idea that the power lines will sag to within 20' of the ground is ridiculous. It's hard to see how they need to be completely cut down. If Federal law says that the trees must be cut down, why would a judge even hear the case?


Mon, Mar 22, 2010 : 6:56 a.m.

Basic Bob you know nothing about which you are commenting. We have the federal mandates There are none And Itc couldn't provide any. because they don't exist. there is no order or recommendation to remove trees. The only suggestion or reccomendations made apply to lines 220kv and above. go to all the reprots are there.

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 21, 2010 : 8:43 p.m.

The residents want reasonable discretion from ITC? ITC has been directed by the federal government to completely remove the trees under its power lines. Judge Morris might grant a temporary order but she can't change the laws of electricity or federal policy. Fully loaded power lines sag and arc over to trees, regardless of which backyard they are in.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Sun, Mar 21, 2010 : 12:59 a.m.

katie: It's called plastic surgery. If ITC had just worked with residents they could have saved themselves a lot of legal costs, time, and trouble. It's pretty obvious that the power lines can be protected without having to cut down everything on the easement. Sounds like they just didn't want to bother to work with residents.


Sat, Mar 20, 2010 : 11:24 p.m.

You say "the lines, which can sag upwards of 30 feet when carrying large loads of electricity during warm weather." This was good for a laugh from me. If the lines were sagging upwards, it wouldn't be a problem. It's that they sag downwards of 30 feet or more that's the problem, I'd guess. How do things sag upwards, you ask? If you find out tell me. As we age, this becomes an important question. (Yoga headstands?)

Steve Pepple

Sat, Mar 20, 2010 : 12:28 p.m.

The incorrect definition of non-deciduous trees has been removed from the story. We apologize for any confusion.


Sat, Mar 20, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

Dear Art Aisner, Both you and Walter Hamilton need to do your homework or return to 10th grade biology class. A deciduous tree is one whose foliage is shed in autumn. Get it right or a different job.


Sat, Mar 20, 2010 : 11:54 a.m.

DTE Energy always seems to hire these hack-job companies to cut tree branches away from their lines, and these tree trimming companies always end up doing a terrible job, ruining property values, and damaging trees beyond repair. I completely support the residents on this one.