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Tree code can't remain 'one size fits all'


As someone who has tangled with the city on the issue of the tree code, I might be expected to oppose it. I don’t. But I think it is a little bit antiquated.Tom Maginnis

When Lake Oswego passed the tree code, it saw itself as a smaller and more homogeneous community. That community was First Addition.

This points out the problem. As the city has grown, different neighborhoods require different solutions. The tree code should either be neighborhood-specific or there should be more flexibility in the code. It cannot remain “one size fits all.”

First Addition with its traditional, heavily treed look should keep the code as is. Skylands, where the value of the lots is predicated on the views toward Mount Hood and the east, should be allowed to cut or trim trees in order to maintain those views. Until that is a feature of our tree code, we will face stiff resistance from Skylands to ever being part of the city.

Westlake, which is only now becoming an older neighborhood, was built during the housing boom of the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Without much supervision, many eccentric and interesting trees were planted simply because some contractor had them in inventory. They are no longer appropriate to the neighborhood.

That was the case with three houses on my block. The first had a redwood planted in the front yard, which was growing at a phenomenal rate and was clearly going to be a problem. The second was a 2 1/2-foot-diameter maple tree planted between two homes only 10 feet apart. The tree was lifting the foundation of the home to the south while lifting the porch of the home to the north.

The third case was two full-size oaks planted in a 3-foot-wide parking strip. One of them has destroyed the sidewalk next to it twice already and the third sidewalk is now beginning to lift and crack.

In every case, the homeowners were denied the right to cut those trees. Eventually, then city manager Doug Schmitz intervened on the first two. As for the third case, they can be seen any day, lifting the curb, cracking my driveway and destroying the sidewalk in front of my house. They have invaded my water main twice and dislocated my water meter once. They are beautiful trees, but full-size trees never should have been planted in such a narrow space. The contractor should have been required to plant ornamentals.

I love the treed look of Lake Oswego. I understand that enforcement of the code has become more flexible in recent years. But I would like to suggest that the code should be more neighborhood specific in order to recognize the unique needs of each area of the city.

Tom Maginnis, Lake Oswego, is a business owner and was the Republican candidate last year in the House District 38 race.