$15,000 penalty from town for cutting trees is excessive
What amounts to a $15,000 penalty handed down last week to a Carbondale business by the town’s trustees for the removal of some trees from public property is, we believe, overly punitive and should be reconsidered.
To recap, three mature evergreen trees were removed from the public right of way along Highway 133 next to Sunburst Car Care last summer. Craig Rathbun, a part owner of the business, had asked for permission to cut the trees down as long as he came up with an acceptable replacement plan.
His rationale was that the spruce trees, once fully grown, would hide the business from the view of potential customers, and that a more appropriate tree with less dense foliage might serve as a replacement.
In fact, the town’s current policy regarding trees within the street right of way does not permit evergreens for a variety of reasons.
At the time, Carbondale Public Works Director Larry Ballenger denied the request until the matter could be reviewed further. But some miscommunication resulted in the trees being removed anyway.
The town’s Board of Trustees reviewed the matter last week and ” by a 4-1 vote with two trustees absent ” required the business to replace the trees at its own expense, at an estimated cost of about $10,000. In addition, the board levied a $5,000 fine, to be paid into a Highway 133 landscaping fund.
Without getting into the “he said, he said” aspect of this story, we think the hefty financial penalty given to the owners of Sunburst was way over the top, especially in the current economic climate.
We’re not saying that the business owners should be absolved of all blame in this situation. There should have been a better and more open line of communication between them and the town. And ultimately, that communication must start with the business owner.
However, hitting an established Carbondale business with that steep of a penalty is way too extreme.
The amount assessed would be too high during any period, but during these harsh economic times the burden that places on a business could be catastrophic.
The town of Carbondale and its businesses need to work together. There needs to be a good, cordial working relationship that benefits both sides.
Sales tax revenues from local businesses is what municipalities depend on to maintain infrastructure and upkeep of their towns and cities. Successful business is key to a town’s success.
During a recession like we’re seeing today, town officials and business owners need to look to one another for support and understanding and to nurture a cooperative working relationship.
Better communication at the beginning could have squashed this entire situation before it started. Better communication afterward could have benefited both parties.
Hopefully, there were some valuable lessons learned from all parties, and we’ve heard the decision may be reconsidered.
We would encourage the Carbondale trustees to take another look at this matter. A better, more appropriate penalty would go a long way in promoting a strong working relationship.
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