Gypsum Town Council members passed the first reading of an ordinance that would give the town some teeth when dealing with trees that are damaging public property.
The ordinance is likely to be revised somewhat for its second reading, but its current wording states, "Effective June 1, all new conifer trees shall be located a minimum of 10 feet away from driveways, roadways, sidewalks and pedestrian trails to avoid overgrowth of vegetation, improve visibility and reduce damage to public infrastructure."
Gypsum Town Planner Lana Gallegos said it's costing the town a notable chunk of money to repair sidewalks and roads that have been buckled by old trees planted too close to property lines. She said mandatory set-backs for planting new trees will help stop what has been an ongoing problem.
Gypsum Public Works Director Jeff Shreeve testified to how involved tree-damage repairs can be.
"When we fix a buckled sidewalk, we often have to cut out part of the pavement in the road so that we can re-lay the concrete and then we have to re-lay the asphalt, too," he said.
In short, that type of repair is not cheap.
What stirred debate among council members is that the ordinance would make property owners responsible for damage done to any public property.
"I don't think it's right to retroactively fine a property owner for fixing damage caused by an old tree that was planted before they bought the property," said council member Beric Christiansen.
Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll and other council members argued that the town needs some teeth to get property owners to take down trees that have become problems.
"As it is now, we ask them to deal with a tree on their property and they basically say, 'Make me,'" Shroll said.
The ordinance that is likely to be passed will give property owners at least until June 1 to deal with problem trees. After that, they could be charged for repair costs to public property.
Council member Tom Edwards suggested giving property owners a much longer grace period to comply with the ordinance.