Lehi residents are reluctant to cut down more than 300 trees in the neighborhood
A tree-lined street in the Olympic Park neighborhood of Lehi is pictured on Tuesday. Lehi City Council has approved a plan to remove more than 300 trees from the neighborhood, citing liability and safety concerns. (Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com)
Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes
LEHI — More than 300 trees are set to be axed in the Lehi Olympic Park neighborhood, after the city council approved a proposal to remove all trees from city-owned park strips in the neighborhood.
Some of the trees – many of which were planted decades ago – lifted the sidewalk 3 or 4 inches in places, creating liability for the city, according to Lehi City Council members.
But some residents say they are concerned that the decision to cut down 317 trees is too broad and was made without notice or input from landowners.
Jordan Jensen, 35, who has lived in the neighborhood for four years, said he only heard about the proposal from a neighborhood Facebook group.
“Basically, I was informed that the city council had met at the end of July to discuss possible solutions for them to have to do the maintenance of their own damn trees,” he said. declared. “And rather than doing anything preventative, they’re very reactionary. They’ve decided that rather than just going after certain trees that are having problems… they’re going to cut down over 300 trees in our neighborhood alone. .”
Anne-Marie Mickelsen, 45, shares Jensen’s concerns.
“I get the responsibility and it’s their property,” she said, but they made that decision in isolation, I feel, and it just seems very drastic.”
Council members acknowledged the plan was flawed when discussing it in July, and Councilman Paul Hancock proposed a piecemeal approach to avoid having to uproot all the trees at once.
“What worries me is that the neighborhood is going to look bare,” Hancock said. “I’m driving there now and it’s just lush, you know, it’s a really cool feeling. I wonder if there’s some kind of hybrid where you’re doing half of it now…identify the trees that are really the problem trees, so that the neighborhood doesn’t just become burned overnight.”
In the end, the council determined that it would be less expensive to do it all at once, rather than tending to individual trees as they became dangerous.
The project has an estimated cost of $80,000 for tree and stump removal, plus $40,000 to repair concrete. Each household will receive a $200 reimbursement to plant new trees in their yard, regardless of the number of trees removed from park strips in front of their property.
Both Mickelsen and Jensen said the amount pales in comparison to the cost of planting saplings, which won’t provide the same amount of shade or beauty for decades. They also fear that cutting down trees will increase their air conditioning costs and decrease the value of their properties.
According to a 2007 study, having tall trees—like those lining the streets of Olympic Park—in yards can increase a home’s value between 3% and 15%. Residents fear the city plan will also lower their property values, even if they plant their own trees.
“I’m not a green person at all, but I don’t agree with the city making an arbitrary decision that will drive down the value of my house,” Jensen said. “If they want to give me $20,000 to chop down the trees, sure, but $200 won’t be enough.”
Jensen said he thought the city’s decision was hypocritical, given that Lehi was recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA initiative and received the organization’s growth award.
Several residents of the neighborhood attended the city council meeting on Tuesday evening to express their grievances to the council and the mayor. The topic was not on the agenda, but the council promised to put the withdrawal on hold pending further discussions with the community.
“We have a responsibility to keep our communities safe, so that’s an important consideration,” Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson said in response.
I’m not a green person at all, but I don’t agree with the city making an arbitrary decision that will drive down the value of my house.
–Jordan Jensen, Olympic Park resident
On Wednesday, Lehi City Councilor Mike Southwick told KSL.com he was open to exploring other options but said the city must consider its own responsibility before addressing the potential impact. that his decision would have on the value of the properties. The board has not set a date for a public hearing on the matter, he added.
A city spokesperson told KSL.com via email that “Street and Park Superintendents will meet with each homeowner in the neighborhood to have a private consultation regarding the tree in front of their home. … Every circumstance may being different, so we feel meeting with owners one-on-one will provide better clarity and help answer specific questions about their property.”
Jensen said it was “disappointing” that the council did not set a specific time to hear from the general public, but he is optimistic that a compromise will be found. He plans to do more outreach, to make sure his neighbors aren’t caught off guard “when someone shows up on their porch to chop down their tree.”
“If you had the opportunity for a legislative body to have a 15% impact on the value of your property, do you think you would be okay with that?” He asked. “And shame on me to think they wouldn’t make this kind of direct drastic decision without our input. It’s silly.”