In presenting concerns about overgrown Bradford Pear trees in several subdivisions damaging county vehicles, road administrator Scott Shepherd was asked by the county fiscal court to send out letters to the Homeowner’s Associations of the affected neighborhoods for feedback on removing trees — and not just Bradford Pear trees.

Of the responses that the road department received back, half warranted the removal of the trees, while the other half did not. Several subdivisions that Shepherd mentioned were Battlefield, Jacks Trace, The Meadows and The Woods.

Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor and Shepherd listened to one concern from a man whose point was that he has lived in his home for 20 years pruning annually what he planted, which were not Bradford Pear trees, and he thought it's unfair for the county to just uproot them, as his trees are interspersed with the Bradford Pear trees in question.

“They are causing no hazard, so he thought it was harsh for us to come in and say, ‘We’re going to remove all the trees in that section,’ and I kind of understand his point,” Shepherd said.

Since the discussion began two weeks ago, Shepherd said he had given the project’s undertaking a lot of thought after originally stating the county look for a permanent solution by removing the trees altogether.

“I think it would be a very big burden on the county for us to have to pay for all that removal,” Shepherd said.

As opposed to complete tree removal on behalf of the county, the court discussed making the tree maintenance the responsibility of the property owner, which follows suit to several other cities, including Louisville and Lexington.

“I feel like we need to look more towards something like that instead of just accepting the burden of having to deal with these problem trees,” he said.

They discussed establishing an ordinance or a subdivision regulation that would set a height regulation and limit distances between trees and streets. In addition, they talked about requiring branches of trees close to streets to be cut back a certain distance, as well as requiring branches to be a certain length, which would be the homeowner's responsibility.

“If we discuss an ordinance, I think that we should have a buffer zone from the sidewalk from our easement, say a 10-foot distance from our sidewalk, so that this problem doesn’t occur or affect the sidewalk or the road,” he said.

Judge Taylor reminded the court that the county does in fact already have subdivision regulations in place that don't allow the planting of Bradford Pear trees specifically and no planting in county right-of-ways.

“Once the county adopts that right-of-way, it is up to the road department to maintain that right away, and we aren’t going out and cutting people’s trees down,” Bert Thomas, the county’s planning and zoning director, said. “If they are not able to maintain a right-of-way because a tree is in the way, then that tree needs to go. Now how you enforce that, how you police that and who pays for that would be the only reason you want an ordinance.”

Taylor replied, “That subdivision (regulation) that you don’t plant trees in the right-of-way, I think, is fine. But then we have to police that as a government entity when either that developer turns that subdivision over to us or you know. … We’ve gone 20 plus years, 25 years, never fixing the issue, never policing the issue, and so now, with the action we tried to take a few meetings ago was to see if there was somewhat of a compromise.”

It was decided that members of the planning and road departments, as well as Taylor, would sit to discuss a proposal that could be brought back to the court for further discussion.

Other business

• The fiscal court approved the second reading of an ordinance that constitutes a zone change at 1692 Berea Road from UC-1 (urban residential) to UC-5 (urban industrial) because the location was better suited for such a zone.

• The court approved the first reading of a zone change for Moberly Road from an R-7 zone to an R-1 zone with the potential of creating a new subdivision. Concerns from several magistrates arose concerning the watershed and existing flooding problem at the location. The reading passed three to two with magistrates Larry Combs and John Tudor in voting against it.

• Taylor signed a proclamation citing the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping, stating in the past year alone, vaping among high schoolers has increased by 78%.

The next Madison County Fiscal Court meeting will be held Aug. 13, 9:30 a.m. at the Madison County Courthouse, 101 W. Main St., Richmond.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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