Neighbors claim condo developer cut branches after tree permit was denied
City officials are investigating whether a developer violated urban forestry guidelines by heavily pruning a tree outside a historic Northeast apartment building as part of a condominium conversion project.
The Lindquist Apartment House at 711 N.E. Randall Ave., just off Northeast Sandy Boulevard near 27th Avenue, is being converted to condos by the Real Estate Firm, a company that specializes in such projects.
As part of the project, the firm applied for a permit to remove a deodar cedar tree in front of the building.
The staff of the urban forestry office of Portland Parks and Recreation issued the permit last month. But then neighbor Alyson Ayn Osborn appealed the permit to the appointed Urban Forestry Commission, as allowed by city ordinances.
'It's not a Christmas tree-perfect tree, but it has a lot of character and neighbors enjoy it,' Osborn said.
The volunteer commission advises the parks bureau and city forester, and acts as an appeals board for tree permits. It held a public hearing on the permit June 15.
Osborn and other neighbors testified in support of preserving the tree. Firm owner Scott Timberlake testified that he believes the tree needed to be removed for safety reasons.
At the end of the hearing, the commission denied the permit but left it open for Timberlake's firm to reapply. City forester and nature manager Dave McAllister said the commission wanted to give the firm an opportunity to propose a plan for mitigating the effects on the neighborhood of removing the tree.
But according to Osborn, the firm had all the limbs cut off the tree the very next day.
'It looks like one of those retro cocktail picks, a toothpick with a little bit of green on the top. I can't believe a new company would move into the neighborhood and then disregard what the neighbors want,' Osborn said.
Neighbor Reagen Clark said when she saw what was happening, she ran up to the workers and threatened to call the police on her cell phone.
'I said, 'You don't have a permit and what you're doing is illegal,'' said Clark, who lives in a basement apartment across the street from the Lindquist. 'They said, 'We're done,' and left. I think they were planning to cut it all down, though.'
Timberlake did not return calls for comment.
After neighbors complained to McAllister's office, he began exploring the city's legal options.
'We have asked the city attorney's office to review the ordinances to determine if a violation occurred and what could be done about it,' McAllister said.
Although the tree is on private property, city ordinances still require permits to be obtained to trim or cut trees under certain circumstances, including when the property is being subdivided, developed or improved.
The Lindquist Apartment House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in the 1920s and features a Mission/Spanish Revival architecture style. The listing does not provide any greater protections to the tree, however.
The Real Estate Firm's Web site lists 24 condominiums in the Portland area, including 11 that are listed as 'coming soon.' One of those is the Lindquist, which will feature studios and one- and two-bedroom condos priced between $165,000 and $195,000.