Northfield Center Twp. trustees wrestle with tree removal issue

Ken Lahmers, Correspondent
Kent Weeklies

NORTHFIELD CENTER – Township trustees are seeking to resolve a hazardous trees issue at Pleasantview and Skylane drives, but decided against adopting a resolution to order the property owner to abate the nuisance at a special meeting Dec. 14.

Trustees Russ Mazzola and Rich Reville voted against the resolution, while Trustee Paul Buescher favored it. Buescher said branches have fallen on the roadway in the past, the trees are a safety concern and the property owner has ignored requests from the township to remove them.

“The situation has existed for three years,” Buescher said. “A motorist or pedestrian is going to get hurt [by falling trees]. Does a tree have to fall on someone before we do something?”

Mazzola and Reville agreed the trees could pose a hazard, but they expressed concerns about legal ramifications if the township removes them from private property.

The resolution which was defeated stated “the trees constitute a nuisance and pose imminent danger to the public,” and proposed that the property owner be ordered to remove them within seven days under Ohio Revised Code Section 505.87.

If adopted, the resolution would have allowed the township to remove the trees and assess the cost to the property owner’s tax duplicate, if the owner failed to remove them.

Zoning Inspector Don Saunders said the owner was last notified of the township’s concerns on Dec. 11. Saunders agreed the trees could pose a hazard, but suggested an arborist be contacted to determine whether they are dead and should be removed.

Attorney Raymond Hartsough from the Summit County prosecutor’s office told trustees it would be Saunders’ job to assess the situation. He added the township could remove the trees, but there must be evidence that a danger is imminent to defend the township’s actions if the issue goes to court.

Hartsough suggested the township identify the potentially dangerous trees and post a notice, giving the owner time to mitigate the situation. Buescher and Saunders said the township has posted warnings on the property for other issues such as high grass.

Saunders said the owner could be cited under the recently passed property maintenance code. Trustees said they will investigate further options before deciding on the next step. “We want to do this the right way,” said Mazzola.

In other action at the special session, trustees approved having Site Technology Inc. of Stow do some work at Beacon Hills Park, where improvements have been made this year with money from an Ohio NatureWorks grant.

The work will cost $19,050, and includes cleaning and color surfacing concrete and installing a tennis net and posts, two pickleball net systems, concrete footers and a 4-foot high black vinyl-coated pickleball divider fence on the courts.

Also approved was paying Partners Mfg. Inc. $5,196 for emergency repairs to the township’s leaf vac so 2020 collection can be completed. The machine is one of two the township owns and operates.

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