A Lake Oswego judge ordered West Linn developer Jeff Parker to pay $28,555 in penalties Wednesday for damaging trees on his North Shore Road property in May, killing a mature Douglas fir.
Parker pleaded no contest in a letter to the Lake Oswego Municipal Court. He did not appear at the trial, nor did a representative of his development company. Instead, attorney Larry Derr entered the plea by letter Wednesday morning. He included a check for the maximum possible fine, requesting a refund of any balance
David Powell, attorney for the city of Lake Oswego, instead asked Judge Wm. Bruce Shepley to levy the full fine. He said Parker willfully violated the city's tree code and should suffer the maximum penalty.
'There is no question Mr. Parker and his team and his contractor were very aware of what was required and what he could and couldn't do,' Powell said, citing previous tree code violations, which were waived to bring about a settlement between Parker and his neighbors in March.
Two months later, city officials cited Parker for additional tree code violations on his North Shore Road lot, where he is currently building his own luxury home. The violations included a failure to maintain proper tree protections, excavation near the roots of trees and removal of roots of protected trees. Four trees were affected, including a Douglas fir, 38.5 inches wide, which did not survive. The tree was one of three in the way of a second garage and driveway Parker fought to include in the development but could not.
The violations stoked tensions between Parker and his eastern neighbors at the Forest Hills Easement. Members of the easement and of the Country Club/South Shore Neighborhood Association have steadily challenged development of Parker's 14,000-square-foot home, aiming to scale down both its size and its impact on neighborhood trees.
In testimony Wednesday, Shelley Lorenzen, speaking on behalf of both the easement and the neighborhood, said the penalties should require tree replacement and fines should be steep enough to discourage more violations.
'I think that the fact that he sent a check and did not have the courtesy to appear here today to explain what happened or apologize to the community is very indicative of a man who thinks he can buy his way out of anything,' she said.
Shepley said he would impose the maximum fine but said he wasn't sure the $28,555 - the most the law allowed - was enough.
'To people who can afford a 14,000 square foot house, I'm not sure that isn't just the cost of doing business,' he said.