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Tigard land owner will cut 2,300 trees

Stop-work order in place since September dissolves next month
by: Jaime Valdez Martin Stewart looks out over the trees behind his home on Cherry Drive. The trees are scheduled to be removed Aug. 1. The cut trees will likely be disposed of or left on the site to rot.

More than 2,300 trees are expected to be removed from 42 acres of private property beginning as early as Aug. 1.

Retired manufacturing executive Fred Fields has been trying to cut down the trees on land he owns off Southwest Hunziker Street for more than a year, but was postponed by city and state agencies while they investigated environmental impacts.

The trees are located on land that Fields hopes to sell one day to developers, but the land is of little worth to builders with trees on it, he said.

'I've invested in this land for a long time,' said Fields, who has owned the property for more than 40 years. 'I've paid more than $100,000 in taxes on the property. Add it all up and it's not peanuts.'

Fields has held a city permit to clear the 2,310 trees for months, but a stop-work order in September delayed the project while Fields worked to complete an inventory of wetlands and other water resources.

There were also concerns of erosion and what affect the tree removal would have on endangered red-legged frogs in the area.

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2,300 trees set to be removed beginning Aug. 1. The Times Photo: Jaime Valdez

Having passed all the requirements, Fields said he's ready to start removing the trees.

News of the tree removal has upset many nearby residents who have lived near the property for decades.

'This is like cutting down the freaking rainforest,' said Martin Stewart, a neighbor whose property abuts Fields'. 'The whole thing just doesn't make sense to me. All he's doing is spending money in the hopes of someday making it back.'

Fields himself has said that he has no immediate plans for the property.

'I have no plans for it at all,' he said. '(The land) doesn't have any value now, but if the value changes as a result of the tree removal, then it'll change things.'

Fields said he wouldn't begin to look for a buyer until the economy improves.

'I'm not going to jump off the bridge and immediately start trying to sell it,' he said. 'The economy is determined by other people, not me. Sooner or later it will improve, then I'll tell you that I'm starting to look for buyers.'

Fields doesn't expect to begin looking for a developer for at least two years, he said.

Will animals 'end up on the street'?

To some, Fields has become a controversial figure over the past few years. In addition to the planned tree removal, Fields also fought to extend Southwest Wall Street near the Tigard Library over Fanno Creek wetlands to access another piece of property he owns in the area.

That plan - approved July 5 by the city hearing's officer - would build a bridge over the wetlands to access Fields' 25-acre property, which he hopes to sell to residential developers.

Stewart, who has lived on nearby Cherry Drive near the Hunziker Street property for more than 20 years, has seen generations of deer and other animals on the forested land over the years, and said he bought his home, in part, because of the land.

'It was all part of the 'wow' factor of this place,' he said. 'We'd go out on the deck and watch the deer in the morning. There's all kinds of raccoons and skunks and birds here.'

Stewart said he worries about their fate after the trees are removed.

'They will probably end up on the street and get hit by cars,' he said.

There has also been some question about the felled trees themselves. Commercial forestry rules dictate that the trees cannot be cut down for commercial use or 'enter the stream of commerce' - meaning that Field's would not be able to sell the trees once they are cut down.

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The land is directly across the street from Potso Dog Park, off Hunziker Street. The Times Photo: Jaime Valdez

Unable to sell them, Fields has said he may have the trees destroyed or store them on the property to rot.

Crews are expected to leave some trees on the site. A 50-foot barrier of uncut trees and brush has been reserved between the existing neighborhoods near Cherry Drive and the removed trees.

For Stewart, he says that isn't enough.

'This is like an amphitheatre in here,' he said, looking out over the forested land behind his home. 'I can hear people talking at Potso Dog Park (a quarter-mile away). It's going to cause one hell of a mess.'

Tigard Community Development Director Ron Bunch said that Fields has until Aug. 30 to remove the trees.

In situations where trees are cut down for development, Bunch said, the city has codes in place that require new trees to be planted, but with no development in sight for the property, Bunch said there's no requirement to replant just yet.

'In this case, he's just a property owner taking down some trees,' Bunch said.