Kill trees before they require permit?

thomas_eApril 27, 2012

Around the house I grew up in and still own, my father planted four redwood trees and three other evergreens which I'm not sure what they are.

I love the trees but unfortunately, in what will probably turn out to be a wise move, I'm about to chop them down, but thought I'd get some last advice before doing so.


Here are the details: I'm sure many people face the same situation:

It has probably been about 8-10 years now since my father planted the trees and their trunks are reaching the 10" diameter that would require a permit to remove, a permit type that is increasingly denied these days. I DO LIKE the trees very much and would like to keep them ...for now...

...but I can just see the situation I'll be placing my children in one day, when they inherit the house. The trees would have grown to sizes requiring permits, and the way things are going, given enough time, they are also likely be declared heritage trees one day. The trees will have grown to nuisance dimensions and some will probably be lifting and cracking the house's foundation -- as some of the trees are at varying distances from the house, from 15 feet to 60 feet away.

So what will then the "community" do to my children, twenty years from now, to thank our family for having planted the trees in the first place, for having cared for them, for having spent money to maintain them all these years, and for the beauty they have provided to the "community"?

They will probably say "We the people ...ordinance with them and your cracking foundation and continue to care for your trees because we want to enjoy them and have put half of them on the city's heritage tree list. You try to remove them and we send the police with guns and punishment".

So please give me some advice because I'm about to chop down the beloved trees my own father planted. Unfortunately seems like I have to resort to "killing them before they grow"... beyond the permit 10" diameter threshold.

I have heard many stories of people with "heritage" trees in their backyards in my neighborhood and things are only likely to get worse. I no longer feel secure in my property's ownership so it's time for preemptive chainsaw measures.

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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Interesting. Is that really how the law works there? Big government starts at home.

How about you plan for the 50 year future and remove the ones which are too close to the home. Leave the tree or trees which are 50 feet away. Plant something smaller close to the home.

King Soloman would approve.

If you could post a pic of the place and some more details concerning the regulations this has my attention. Is this just like a $10 fee to make sure people use a licensed and insured service to remove big dangerous trees?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 12:57AM
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Most cities here put you through hoops to remove a tree that has a trunk diameter larger than 6"-10" -- the restrictions apparently supported by "the majority".

Some cities have specific lists of individually identified "heritage trees" while others label all trees of a certain species and size as "heritage trees". Those are nearly impossible to remove, and damage to your house must first demonstrably occur (as in cracked foundation) before "the people" will even consider letting you remove what they have put in the heritage tree classification.

The attitude varies from "yes, we will most likely approve the permit after some fees and inspections" to "we have a permit process but don't bother applying especially if the public likes your tree". But the restrictions are expanding...

Most of my trees are 15-30 feet from the house, only two are 60ft and apparently redwood trees can eventually reach 120+ feet horizontally. They can also grow to 100ft height in about 30 years. So it's not even a 50 year issue but a problem we are likely to face in twenty or so years. And by then regulations would have only gotten worse. Virtually all of Europe (my native continent) has similar regulations, and these days Europe seems to be the model direction in which Americans seem to be either consciously or unconsciously moving towards.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 2:26AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i think redwood roots .. why not take cuttings.. and propagate them ???

at least you can keep the memory alive..


    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 6:52AM
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If they are eucalyptus trees then I would certainly encourage you to remove them. Those are evergreen, fast growing, non-native and invasive in California. Plus they create very hot fuel if there is ever a fire in the area.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 9:02AM
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Unless you live in one of the really moist foggy valleys of California, I would not expect your Redwoods to grow anywhere near the size you think they will. Are they Redwood or Giant Sequoia? I'd be surprised to see either have a 120' spread and certainly not in the next 60 years.

Despite your claim that this is long-term strategic planning, it sounds an awful lot like short-term knee jerk response planning. By-laws and local governments change over time and permits for tree removal are actually quite reasonably acquired when a legitimate negative impact on health or property is at play.

Long story short, it sounds like you are taking a rather exaggerated stance on this and you should probably consider a final solution that is somewhere between removing all or none.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 10:28AM
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Smiv's got it right. Additionally, trees damaging foundations is not the norm. It can happen, but in the vast majority of cases where trees are growing near foundations, no problem ever develops.

You seem overwrought on this me.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 5:56PM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

You guys don't live in California...the people who have taken an exaggerated stance and are overwrought on this issue are those who pass laws that give trees on private property virtually the same rights as humans. Gets the rest of us a bit wiggy at times...

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 8:27PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Nationwide (and globally) the trees are coming down and the concrete is spreading. Way more trees are cut than planted (or retained).

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 9:28PM
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Gotta ask for back up data on the claim about cut downs versus replanting.

from the MN DNR a few years ago...average of six trees planted for each tree cut down.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 12:38AM
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This is a very interesting post. I'll admit, ive never heard of tree permits, but thats the difference between minnesota and california.

As far as the cracked foundation goes, its not an issue. I fix masonry for a living, and in my experience, you are overblowing that issue. 15ft is plenty of space, and the shade of that tree will save you so much on cooling your house that you could afford to fix your foundation 10x over.

So the real issue is, do you leave these trees on your yard if they might become "sanctuary" trees that you cant remove? I have a hard time answering this hypothetical myself. Would you buy a house that had streetlamps in your yard that you cant remove?

You have to weigh all the consequences before you decide. Large trees add value to your property, look great, and help the environment. A yard full of stumps, and no trees, is the saddest and ugliest thing i can imagine, but so is being trapped in a home with trees you cant enjoy because they remind you of how much you hate paying taxes.

In my mind, they have to stay. You wouldnt be doing yourself or your kids any favors by cutting them, especially since they have sentimental (and monetary) value. Decide for yourself.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 11:40AM
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"The trees will have grown to nuisance dimensions and some will probably be lifting and cracking the house's foundation"

Redwoods are (for their size) low risk trees for damaging foundations. The others, depends on what they are.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 12:52PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

We have similar statutes here in my town in Virginia. We had neighbors who cut down three 100 year-old trees before applying to add on to their house. Absolutely their right, but very sad to see those wonderful trees go to be replaced by driveway paving and house. Then, they moved five years later. We have trees that were planted (oaks) more than 60 years ago and about 20 feet from our house. They are much, much larger in diameter than your redwood (guessing at least 40-45 inches diameter). We have had absolutely no problem with roots damaging the foundation or any lines running to the house. I also would suggest easing up a bit on your worries. Sounds a little more as if you just want to remove the trees and need an excuse to do so. If that is the case, don't blame it on government intrusion, just do what you want to do. Will your children live in the house when they inherit it or will they sell it? That could ease your worries alot!

Also, one note about the cutting and replanting of trees. Often, those trees that are replanted are not native or are not the long-lived, valuable trees such as oaks and others. Sure, I could cut down all my oaks and plant 40 dogwoods or redbuds or some other understory tree, but the benefits to the environment would not be the same. Our oaks save us a ton on AC costs in the DC area summers! I can often get through the day without it completely even when temps are in the 90s with that wretched high humidity!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 1:51PM
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I regret to post that two of the redwood trees have already been cut down. I have hired an arborist to give me an opinion on the remaining trees.

I talked to a structural engineer friend who has made money in the past writing letters for people whose houses and foundations are threatened by large trees, letters that they then had to submit to city hall for permission to cut the trees -- and still, some of the requests were turned down when damage had not already visibly occurred. So I decided that the trees must go.

Calls to environmental benefits only reinforce my assessment as to what the public's predominant stance is: "Because your father's tree planting has conferred benefits to the public, your family is now obligated to continue to do so,... by force going forward.

It is a long term issue. As America seems to be mimicking Europe in almost all aspects these days, and traditional American values of individual freedom become subordinate to perceived collective interest, the regulatory environment is only bound to get worse. I was born and lived in that European world, and believe me, the place you are going to is not a happy place. But there is little I can do about this irreversible, and in my view suicidal, change of culture. All I can do is to not voluntarily subject my children to it. So the trees must go.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 2:57AM
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Yes.............I also was not raised in the U.S. and agree that once control over your personal domain is regulated you don't know what you got, 'til it's gone. I would have left at least one, however, as your father's legacy. We've installed at least 150 trees in the last twenty five years in what was formerly pasture. I have nightmares that somebody who moves into this old house is going to be a grass worshipper and if they plan on clearing this land again, they'd better be well heeled, and prepared for me to come back and haunt them.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 7:51AM
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Those of you who want to see how homeowners who plant redwood trees (and possibly other large trees) and care for them for decades eventually get dragged in front of Pontius Pilot to be judged by the crowd please see (denial of application):

As for the age of the tree in the above permit denial it could very well be a mere 40-50 year old tree, causing extensive damage to the house from 16 feet away.

Now imagine your father or grandfather being the one who planted the tree.


Also see this report and note the tone of the denial: "Your problem, deal with it, you bear the cost of unconventional sewer replacement, regular pruning of a 100 ft. tree, risk and cost of fallen branches, trenching and barriers etc. We don't care, the public likes your tree and thanks to your father for planting it for us and to you for the bill."

Another homeowner in regulatory quandary here (see page 4),%202010%20CC%20%20Mtg.pdf


For redwood tree rates of growth see:

"Under ideal conditions, partial shade where they are protected from moisture loss, redwoods may grow two or three feet in a year. The stems of young trees may increase in diameter by an inch or more each year, but this rate diminishes with age."

"The fact is that coast redwood is an extremely fast growing tree that can reach heights of 170 feet in 50 years on good California sites. Under ideal conditions radial growth can be up to one inch per year."

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 2:33PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Re: your last posts

Maybe you want to move this to Hot Topics rather than the Trees forum.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 2:57PM
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