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Waterloo seeks to stem volunteer tree growth

Waterloo seeks to stem volunteer tree growth

WATERLOO — An ordinance change would address a growing problem with volunteer trees.

Code enforcement officials are asking the Waterloo City Council to amend the “weed and grass” ordinance to include measures addressing unintended, unsightly trees cropping up throughout the city.

“A volunteer tree is basically one that grows on its own rather that one that is deliberately planted,” said Maria Downing, code enforcement foreman.

“We are looking to use this as a tool to take care of the volunteer trees that are growing out of the foundations around the houses, around the garages, back by the alleys, trying to really enhance the looks of our neighborhoods.

“We get a lot of calls every year on volunteer trees,” she added. “Due to the fact there’s nothing in the ordinance there is nothing we can enforce on that.”

Council members discussed the ordinance during a work session Monday and could vote on it during their next meeting Tuesday.

“I think this is a great thing,” said Councilwoman Margaret Klein. “I’m glad we’re going to go after this.”

Klein said she was out knocking on doors in her ward recently when she saw a tree growing up through the deck of a home and blocking the front door.

Waterloo already has an ordinance that governs weeds and grass on private lots, including provisions that grass can’t be higher than eight inches on residential lots and one foot elsewhere. The ordinance also governs noxious weeds but does not cover volunteer trees.

Property owners receiving a notice under the ordinance have five days to remedy the violation before the city sends in crews to mow a lot and bill the property owner.

Councilman Pat Morrissey questioned whether property owners would have a way to appeal an order if they wanted to keep a tree tagged for removal.

Downing said there is an appeal process. She also noted she is willing to meet property owners on site if they have concerns about particular trees.

“We’re not going after volunteer trees that have been in somebody’s yard for two or three years and manifested into a tree,” she said.

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