Not only are several homeowners upset that the city of Houston has removed nine trees on the edge of their street without notification, but they have also been left to deal with the scourge of property damage because of the work; and in the Shepherd Forest neighborhood, the sight was nothing short of jarring.
“This was completely green, flat and well-maintained, and every place they parked that truck, it killed the grass. (The fence) may have been a little older, but it wasn’t broken,” resident Jamie Farquhar-Rizzo said, gesturing towards patches of yellow grass and a now busted-up fence. “Now people walking down 34th will stop and look in. It’s just very frustrating that they haven’t returned to repair the damage.”
Jeremy Burkes with the City of Houston Urban Forestry department said a forester inspected the location August 31, 2016 and found nine trees in the city ROW in poor condition and form, containing significant decay within the trunk. As such, the trees were deemed structurally unsound and as posing risk of failure. Residents, however, disagree.
“The previous homeowner took care of all those trees—he sprayed them, he took care of them for pesticides. He knew how important those were to our view and took care of them,” Farquhar-Rizzo said. “There’s nothing wrong with them, it’s not like they were rotting at the bases or anything. They were fine.”
Burkes said Urban Forestry made the decision anyway to contract Prime Trees to have them removed for safety concerns based on their assessment. On June 1, the city issued a work order to Prime Trees, and work was completed on June 9.
That is all well and good, Farquhar-Rizzo said, but the kicker is that removal of trees had been scheduled for months — yet homeowners had no idea.
“Nobody told us,” she said.
In most cases, when trees scheduled for removal abut the front or side of a property, Burkes said a doorhanger indicating the pending work is provided at each location where work activity or equipment may present an inconvenience to the property owner.
However, Burkes maintained that since, in the city’s estimation the work could be completed along a major public thoroughfare, there was no need.
“By our assessment, work could be performed from West 34th without interference to the residential properties on Stally,” he said. “In hindsight, we should have notified the residents of impending work occurring behind their property.”
That is just one of the major issues for Farquhar-Rizzo, as residents were appalled upon the realization that their natural barrier was suddenly being taken right before their eyes — not to mention the encroachment on private property.
Removal without notice was bad enough, but even as work progressed further, Farquhar-Rizzo said both Prime Trees and its subcontractor, Rufus Trees, blatantly encroached on private property, parking trucks full of equipment directly on the lawn.
Urban Forestry was then informed early last week that Rufus Trees had utilized the private property believing it was a small vacant lot—an issue Burkes says has not happened in his memory.
“Had we known Rufus Trees would attempt to work from Stally, we certainly would have informed the residents of those properties beforehand,” he said.
For Farquhar-Rizzo and others, however, the concession comes too late. Not only are the beloved trees gone, she said, but an immeasurable amount of damage has been left there to rot as the result of a city contractor’s work.
“Give us some notice or something. All of us would have gladly spent the money to have someone to inspect them and to take care of them,” she added, noting she has not seen or heard from Rufus or Prime Trees. “They didn’t even give us that option. They just removed all of them and did all this damage.”
Multiple email requests for comment from Prime Trees as to the status of (or intent to) repair of damaged property went unreturned as of press time.
Beyond providing a lush canopy, Farquhar-Rizzo said the trees just outside the fence also block the view of apartments across the street and provide a respite from the sound of motorists gunning it down 34th Street, glaring lights and more. And now, it’s gone.
“We’re just not protected from the elements anymore,” she said.