Pittsfield Township neighbors, power company agree to temporary tree-cutting restrictions
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.
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 AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.