Nevada City tree advocates want to form working group
A Nevada County judge has suspended PG&E’s tree cutting within Nevada City limits, pending a Nov. 6 court hearing.
However, that order does not provide permanent protection to some 250 trees slated for removal, though it does afford their advocates some time, said Matt Osypowski, an organizer for Save Nevada County Trees.
Osypowski sent an email to council members Wednesday asking them to consider creating a working group composed of advocates and property owners to confer with government officials and PG&E employees in order to determine an equitable response to community concerns.
“If you walk up Orchard (Street) you have people who are losing their entire front or backyards,” Osypowski said. “Aside from all the sentimental and environmental issues, they stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars in property value.”
According to Brandi Merlo, a PG&E spokeswoman, the utility has a “right tree, right place mitigation” program that can provide up to $500 to private landowners. Trees must meet specific guidelines. PG&E has made the program available to all eligible Nevada City landowners.
Osypowski’s citizen group Save Nevada County Trees filed a petition late last week demanding that the court force the Nevada City Council to withdraw the encroachment permit granted to PG&E and host a public meeting where participants can discuss options and rights. Judge Thomas Anderson issued a ruling Tuesday ordering the city to withdraw encroachment permits issued to PG&E and its contractors, and stop all cutting in the city.
Osypowski said he has had a number of one-on-one conversations with receptive council members, but has yet to witness any flexibility from PG&E.
“It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, and it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen,” Osypowski said. “I hope that the time and the injunction encourage them to pursue a dialogue with the community.”
Merlo said her company is committed to working with the community and Nevada City officials.
Merlo said the work the utility company has been doing in the area was discussed at length with the county, Nevada City, Cal Fire and Caltrans.
“We know how much our customers value trees and we do, too, but our primary focus is safety,” Merlo said. “We are committed to working together. We have resources in the area. That’s not an issue for us.”
According to Merlo, PG&E thinks the judge’s decision to rescind permits was “erroneous.”
Merlo said her company maintains that Nevada City tree ordinances do not apply to it. Of the trees in question, 150 of those are on city property. The remainder of the trees belong to private landowners who have already approved their removal, Merlo said.
“All property owners have granted permission to move forward with the work,” Merlo said.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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