Nevada County uses hazardous vegetation ordinance for 1st time, plans lien against property
The dead trees loomed and Daniel Conlan wanted them gone.
Whether dead or alive, the trees near Highway 174 and Meadow View Drive had threatened Conlan’s property for years. He said he’d spoken with the property owner and worked toward having the trees removed, with little result.
It took the first use of Nevada County’s hazardous abatement ordinance to finally clear the trees — work done late last month that’s expected to place a lien on the property.
“It’s just been a long, kind of arduous journey,” Conlan said. “It’s just great that they’ve put this in place.”
Lynnie Newman, owner of the property that’s expected to have around a $40,000 lien placed against it, said she’s angry. Saying she’s been bedridden for the past three years, Newman pointed to what she considers an inflated cost to remove 24 of 40 trees on her property.
“Everybody says that that is just robbery,” Newman said.
The Nevada County Board of Supervisors in 2016 tweaked its hazardous vegetation abatement ordinance, enabling it to abate non-compliant properties and place a lien against them. At the time officials said they anticipated only a fraction of complaints would lead to abatements, as most landowners would clear their land themselves.
“The county would prefer property owners keep their parcels in a fire-safe condition as required by law, but when they don’t, and the hazard poses a serious fire threat to neighbors, having the county step in the remove dangerous fuels may be the only way to protect the public,” Supervisor and board chairman Richard Anderson said in an email.
Conlan said the process to remove the trees is about six years old.
It started with one tree leaning toward a building on his land. That problem grew over one to two years into over 100 dead trees on two properties due to bark beetles.
One landowner logged his trees and removed him. The other, Newman, said she didn’t have the money, Conlan said.
“Then the county got involved,” he added.
The abatement ordinance is driven by complaints. Two formal inspections must occur before a pre-abatement process begins. During that stage landowners have 10 days to appeal or 30 days to remove the vegetation. If vegetation isn’t removed, the county can then advance the process to the abatement stage.
Newman said county officials told her she had to remove her trees. She received estimates ranging from $12,000 to $20,000 to down 40 trees.
“I couldn’t afford that,” she said.
As the process continued Newman learned the county had received a bid of almost $39,000 to remove 24 of the 40 trees. She’s now trying to retain an attorney, she said.
County officials said in a release it found about 28 dead or decaying trees within 100 feet of neighboring, habitable structures.
The actual abatement cost will climb over $40,000 once staff time, inspections and enforcement actions are included, said Jeff Merriman, county code and cannabis compliance program manager, in an email.
The cost of the abatement hasn’t yet been placed against Newman’s property.
The issue must first appear before the Hazardous Vegetation Abatement Hearing Body. If approved, the lien would advance to the supervisors, who likely would vote on it along with several other items in their consent calendar, Merriman said.
No dates have been set for either meeting, he added.
Conlan said he wishes the abatement could have begun about two weeks earlier. January storms felled some of the dead trees. A four- to five-day abatement in late January left Newman’s property clean, though additional storms afterward sent more trees down.
“We just were really grateful they were able to do something,” Conlan said.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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