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Saving trees

Parker receives a restraining order to prevent cutting

Concern that developer Jeff Parker might illegally cut down trees on his lakefront property has prompted the city of Lake Oswego to issue a temporary restraining order against Parker.

The issue has also energized a neighborhood group to seek an amendment to the city tree code, giving city laws 'more teeth' to deal with violators who are willing to pay a fine in return for removing an unwanted tree, according to Shelley Lorenzen, an advocate for changing the law.

A hearing for the restraining order is scheduled in Clackamas County Circuit Court at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9.

The restraining order prohibits Parker from removing any of the 16 trees that he has requested be removed for his new home at 1500 North Shore Road.

The city filed for the restraining order following a conversation between Parker, city code enforcement officer Brandon Buck and city attorney David Powell.

Parker, according to an affidavit filed by the city in support of the restraining order, came to city hall Dec. 5 wanting to know the consequences of cutting down trees on his property.

'What could the city do to me?' Parker asked Buck, according to the affidavit. Parker was referring to what would happen if he cut the trees down.

Buck quoted Parker as saying: 'If I were to cut down a tree or two, I want to know what the maximum penalties are and is there anything else?' he said. 'Is the city going to place a stop work order on my house?'

'It was clear to me that the potential of maximum fines for illegal tree removal was not the deciding point, but rather whether a stop work order could be placed on the construction of his house,' said Buck in the affidavit. 'Mr. Parker certainly conveyed the impression that the only thing that stood in his way of illegal tree removal was the potential of a stop work order on the construction of his residence.'

Buck indicated Parker said he would accept 'maximum penalties' for any illegal tree cutting and 'perhaps lose my business license. I don't care about that.'

Powell later joined the conversation.

The affidavit said Parker told Powell: 'Yes, Dave. I am going to cut them all down.'

Powell then told Parker he would not engage in a conversation regarding what would be the worst thing the city would do to him.

The affidavit says that the city recognizes that fines are not always useful as a way to stop someone from illegally removing trees.

Parker already paid the city $26,000 in August 2006 for numerous tree code violations. In November, the city denied Parker a permit to cut down an additional 16 trees.

Parker wanted them cut down for various reasons, including making room for a driveway, according to the application. One tree, he claimed, was too close to his newly built home.

After denying the tree cutting permits, the city slapped Parker with 16 counts of tree code violations, including failure to maintain tree protection fencing and development within a tree protection zone.

Powell said he will ask for the maximum fines on each of the 16 counts.

Efforts to reach Parker for comment were unsuccessful.

Lorenzen, vice chairwoman of the Country Club/North Shore Neighborhood Association, said Parker 'doesn't seem to think the rules apply to him.'

'We continue to be concerned that he will illegally remove the trees,' Lorenzen said. 'This (affidavit) certainly indicates his intent to do that. He doesn't seem to think the rules apply to him.'

That's why Lorenzen said she would be in favor of changing the rules.

In addition to financial penalties, Lorenzen proposes that the code require violators to re-plant the largest available tree in the spot where the previous tree was taken down.

'That would eliminate any incentive to take the tree down,' she said.