Some homeowners on the Northeast Side who were cited for having untrimmed trees behind their fences and not on their property have now learned they are indeed responsible for those trees.
The city left notices of violation on the doorsteps of more than a half-dozen homeowners in the Gardens of Oak Hollow subdivision.
Those homeowners live in homes along busy Jones Maltsberger Road.
A fence runs down the property line and separates the homes from the roadway and the sidewalk.
The trees in question are growing between the sidewalk and the fence on city property. And some of those trees are showing signs of age: cracking, leaning, dropping limbs.
Still, neighbors were shocked when they got those notices for failing to maintain those trees that are not on their property.
"I was livid," said homeowner Bea Adams, one of those cited. “The city doesn't want to spend the money and the city wants to push off liability."
Adams said there was also a threat of liability. "We were told that it's our responsibility,” Adams said. “Therefore, if anything happens, it's my liability. So I said, 'Well, to reduce my liability, I want to take the tree down.' (And they said,) 'Oh, no, you can't do that.'"
HOA president Bart Baker met with the city and made one thing clear: "I don't think we can be accountable for what happens on city property (and) in city streets," Baker said. And he reminded the city of how busy the street is.
"Out on a major street like Jones Maltsberger, with as much traffic as it gets and the speed that it's getting, we have no business being out there, period," Baker said.
The city investigated those complaints and examined the city code, but it was bad news for homeowners.
Assistant Director of Development Services Mike Shannon said they are responsible for those trees not on their property.
"There were some violations," Shannon said. “When the tree limbs are on the sidewalks or on the street, that creates a hazardous condition for the people walking along the sidewalk and possibly cars."
Shannon said city code reads that lots include “all land adjacent to and extending beyond the property line.” Another section reads that it is the “duty of property owners to trim overhanging trees.” But he promised that the city will help when it can.
"We're here to work with them and explain to them that they are responsible, but when we can be reasonable and find some solutions, that's what we're here for, too," Shannon said.
For now, homeowners should be aware they may be responsible for more than just their property.
Those homeowners have also been told their citations have been cleared and they are now in compliance.
However, going forward they now know they will be responsible for keeping the trees trimmed.