Owners of two seasonal residences on Shin Hollow Road in Gaines Township are angered at a utility company’s decision to remove several trees.
Louis Velasco, a resident of New Jersey, said the 18 evergreens fronting his property have sentimental value. He planted them with his father 18 years ago prior to his death.
Velasco, 71 and a retired police officer and veteran, said the agreement with Tri-County Rural Electric Co-Op allows the utility to trim the trees, but not remove all eight trees.
Seven of the trees are blue spruce, the eighth is a dwarf pine.
In addition, Tri-County contacted Orlando Pedro, whose land borders Velasco’s, to alert him of plans to remove several taller pines and his blue spruce.
Tri-County is reclaiming its right of way, said Eric McRoberts, director of operations, to the wide open standard. That standard provides 40-feet of clearance, 20 feet on each side, of the lines.
With 3,500 miles of lines to maintain, the utility co-op is trying to bring all its lines to the wide open standard.
“It’s really for the benefit of the members for outages and safety,” said McRoberts.
Tri-County has contracted to have thick brush removed, along with tall-growing tree species that will open the area to light and allow grasses to take over.
Since it may have been several years since the utility company last reclaimed its right-of-way, some homeowners are surprised to discover their trees are targeted for removal, he said.
Lines are generally 30-35 feet above ground, which provides 18 feet of clearance over most obstacles and roads, McRoberts said. Electric lines cannot hang closer to the ground than 18 feet.
Getting the news late last week, Velasco drove to his property Monday morning. He met with a Tri-County REC representative that day and his trees were marked for removal on Thursday.
“The unfortunate thing about it is there is nothing we can do. We understand that they had the right of way, but thought it was only for the trees causing a problem,” Velasco said. “These trees are not causing a problem. That’s the part I don’t get.”