The Orchard Lake City Council voted Monday, June 20 to allow the removal of a landmark tree on a homeowner’s property after determining the tree posed a safety risk.
The homeowner, Paul Vagnozzi of 4200 Commerce Road, submitted a request to cut down a red oak tree that was deemed dangerous by Oakwood Tree Services, which concluded there is a high degree of probability the tree could fall onto the house.
“The tree is within a few feet of my house and the arborist said that when red oaks get older they tend to rot and fall, so it’s too much of a risk,” Vagnozzi explained.
Vagnozzi’s lot is heavily wooded. The 5.2 acre parcel is comprised of 30 trees in all, nine of which are landmark trees. Removing the one will not impede with maintaining the property’s woodland integrity, according to Orchard Lake Building Official Gerry McCallum.
The issue came before the council due to parameters of several city ordinances. The landmark tree has a 32-inch diameter and therefore meets landmark tree criteria under the city’s Woodland, Tree, Natural Features and Vegetation Preservation Ordinance. The ordinance states that a tree 24 inches or greater in diameter cannot be removed from a site “unless dead, diseased or within the building footprint plus 10 feet on all sides of structures in new construction.”
The 10-foot rule didn’t apply in Vagnozzi’s case since the structure is not new and the landmark tree appeared to be alive and thriving. Therefore, the council’s approval was necessary prior to the tree’s removal.
“We look at cases individually,” Mayor Bruce McIntyre said.
Another ordinance provision further states that a property owner is allowed to remove up to “two protected trees in any 12 month period without city involvement except landmark trees and trees in environmentally sensitive areas.”
Ultimately, the decision came down to a safety issue.
“There are a number of trees like it on the property, so it’s no loss,” McIntyre said. “The tree reportedly was in danger of falling on the home since it was so close. It’s not a dramatic situation.”