Wake County man takes fight over tree removal to court

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A battle over a willow tree in a Wake County man's front yard heated up in a Raleigh courtroom Monday.

The homeowner said he's standing up for everyone who's ever had Duke Energy chop down their tree claiming it was in the way of power lines.

"They go around town doing this to everyone and no one stands up to them because they're big Duke Energy," said John Kane Jr. "As I drive around and see my neighbors' front yards with stumps left there for them to deal with I said, 'They may beat me, but I'm going to stand up for what is right.'"

"When you're a public utility and you're essentially a monopoly, you should be held at a higher standard," said Kane.

The problem is willow tree branches are above Kane's Raleigh house.

Duke Energy said they're dangerously close to transmission lines and it needs to cut down the tree growing in Kane's yard.

"Those trees could come in contact with the line very quickly and without warning," said Jamie Schwedler, of the Parker Poe law firm which is representing Duke Energy.

Schwedler read an easement that gives the electric company the right to clear and keep clear at least 50 feet of transmission line.

"They should not have the ability to tell the power company that, in their opinion, their tree isn't causing harm," said Schwedler.

Kane has asked the utility to trim the tree and he even offered to do it himself. However, Duke says the tree has to go.

"We are called up on to balance the liability and the safety by everyone served by those lines versus the aesthetics of one person," said Schwedler.

Kane said Duke's only worried about could happen if a judge decides to force the company to work with the homeowner.

"If they had to go through and trim the trees where necessary, or if they remove it, remove the stump as well so the homeowner is not left with the stump," said Kane, "that would cost Duke a lot of money."

The judge told the parties to meet back in his courtroom at 9:30 a.m. Thursday for a decision.

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