Durham residents upset at tree trimming

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Some longtime Durham homeowners are mad.

They received a notice last week, warning them Duke Energy would soon trim back trees near power lines.

"The best part is they included this lovely little brochure on how to plant trees in the future after we tear up your yard," said Marta Molina, pointing to the pamphlet that came with the one-week notice.

After her neighbor's tree was cut in the shape of the letter "L," Molina was ready to stand on her front lawn to keep out work crews.
Her oldest trees were spared including a large Magnolia tree. She says she spent thousands of dollars in recent years to get her trees trimmed by a professional.

Her neighbor, Mary Jane Wiethe, wasn't as lucky. She says work crews hired by Duke Energy left her with half of a Bradford pear tree.

"We don't deny them the right to trim trees," explained Wiethe, pointing to her yard, "but, not to ruin our trees, and some for no good reason at all."

The oddly shaped trees have some homeowners worried about their stability during severe weather.

"Equal weight on both sides is not there," said homeowner Joseph Gary.

Duke Energy said it was unable to fulfill ABC11's request for an on-camera interview. Instead a spokesperson explained by phone that the tree trimming is a safety precaution.

"We work closely with homeowners before cutting," said Duke Energy spokeswoman Paige Layne. The company tries to address property owner concerns about tree trimming on its website.

That didn't happen on West Knox Street in Durham, according to some homeowners. They question whether the City of Durham should intervene.

"So that we can have a little communication on how this needs to be done," Molina urged. "They should've buried power lines 15 years ago. We were talking about doing that."

ABC11 contacted the City of Durham. According to the city's planning department, retrofitting an older neighborhood with underground power lines would be an extensive and costly project. Only new subdivisions have underground power lines.

As long as Duke Energy notifies the city in advance, and follows the industry standard, there's no cutting back on the trimming.

Molina and her neighbors say they'd rather see historical trees replaced with new saplings instead of odd shapes resembling the alphabet.

"It still doesn't make it better to take a tree that's 30, 50 years old and do this to them," said Molina.

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