Tree-cutting contractor defends work at Gateway Center in Penn Valley
A Penn Valley logging contractor on Wednesday defended his work to cut down trees at Gateway Center last weekend, saying that the 20 or so trees he removed were either creating a traffic hazard, were tearing up concrete or were diseased or failing.
“It wasn’t 40-plus trees,” said the owner of Timber Pro’s Logging and Tree Service, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used. “My contract was for 30 trees, but it ended up being only 18 or 20.”
The owner, who said he has been in business for 45 years in Nevada County, disputed Nevada County officials’ assertions in Wednesday’s article in The Union that 40-plus trees were part of the original landscape plan for the shopping center and that they could not be changed or removed without permission from the county or by filing a new landscape plan.
“It’s a 40-year-old landscaping plan,” said the Timber Pro’s owner. “Most of those original trees are dead or gone.” He said he has “removed thousands of trees” on private property in unincorporated Nevada County, and there has never before been a need for any kind of permit or permission. A permit is needed, he said, in the cities of Grass Valley or Nevada City, but not in the county.
“This has been totally exaggerated,” he said. “This is absolutely ridiculous — this thing is getting out of hand.”
He said it was his idea to do the work at 5 a.m. on two days last weekend in order to avoid disruption to business tenants and customers — not, he said, to operate under the cover of darkness as some of the 90 or more posters on Nevada County Peeps Facebook page have alleged.
He added that no one from the shopping center’s owner, Sacramento-based Ethan Conrad Properties Inc., had told him that Nevada County Supervisor Hank Weston and county planning officials had expressly prohibited any trees to be cut down.
Although county officials claim they made it clear that no trees were to be cut, Conrad’s project manager Dwayne Kulp said Tuesday that the county “had not specifically said” not to cut any trees. He said a county planner had told him they would charge $135 an hour to consult with him on which trees could be “relocated.”
“I think the county dropped the ball on this,” said the Timber Pro’s owner.
Rick Lopes, chief of public affairs for the California Contractors State License Board, said it was not clear whether contractors were obligated to research each job to make sure that what they were being hired for was legal.
“Contractors are required to be aware of local laws and codes,” Lopes said. “Whether that goes to a landscaping plan, it’s tough to tell.”
Timber Pro’s license is not under the contractors board, but it is licensed under the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Eldon Cyrus, owner of Cyrus Tree Service in Grass Valley, said he was planning to bid on the Gateway Center job, but called Nevada County first to check if the tree-cutting was legal. The county told him it was not, he said.
“I asked them, ‘Are those protected trees?’” Cyrus said. “They said ‘yes.’”
Cyrus, an arborist, said he declined to bid on the job after talking with the county.
“I didn’t want to step in that hole,” he said.
Cyrus said he then called Ethan Conrad’s representatives and “told them not to do that (cutting job),” he said.
“They said they still wanted my bid,” Cyrus said. “I said, ‘Until you get this worked out with the county, I’m not bidding on it.’”
He said he counted “a lot more than 40 trees” when he went to review the property for bidding purposes.
“I knew the citizens wouldn’t like it,” he said. “I don’t want to look like Sacramento.”
The Timber Pro’s owner on Wednesday, however, disputed Cyrus’ estimate on the number of trees. He said he didn’t cut even the 30 trees in his contract because a back row of trees was not on the Gateway Center property.
“And it wasn’t all redwoods and sequoias,” the owner said, referencing a statement by a concerned citizen in Wednesday’s article. “There were only four redwoods — the rest were scrub trees, some dying and dead.”
He said Conrad on Wednesday asked that he meet with Weston and other county staff to review the situation.
County legal and planning staff could not be reached for comment Wednesday as to any decisions on possible penalties or legal action.
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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