CLINTON — Punishments could soon be handed out for the unauthorized removal of seven trees on the corner of 19th Street and Lincolnway in Clinton, pending an investigation by city officials.
Members of the Tree Commission in Clinton have been working with City Attorney Jeff Farwell to issue fines to the parties in question, but to this point those efforts have come up empty.
"From all the talking and visits to City Hall and things, Jeff Farwell is aware of it and is pursuing it but had to wait to find out who actually did it, and that question is still up in the air," Tree Commission Chairman Randy Pennock said.
According to Pennock, the unauthorized tree removal began when Rotti Motors made an offer to buy the former Clinton Auto Group property at 19th Street and Lincolnway. The offer stated that Rotti Motors would require the removal of four large Purple Ash trees before they would purchase the property.
Clinton Auto Group agreed to the terms of the offer and removed the four trees in question.
However, the landscape design and trees were put in place by the Iowa Department of Transportation as part of the Lincolnway streetscape project, and were planted on city property.
Because of that, Clinton Auto Group needed approval from the city and a special permit to proceed with the removal, but neither of those steps were done prior to the removal.
"I'm hearing a lot 'well that was private property' and no that was not private property," Pennock said. "I've got the original DOT plans and they were planted; they're right there."
Clinton Auto Group is not the only party that could face fines. After Rotti Motors purchased the property and moved in, they removed three additional trees that also were a part of the DOT streetscape project.
The tree service company also could face some fines because of the lack of a permit approving the removal, but that name has not been released.
Depending on how the city wants to proceed with the punishment, all three parties in the case could be faced with up to $600 in replanting fees.
City Attorney Farwell was unavailable for comment on how he will proceed with issuing the fines, but the Clinton Tree Commission said it will not settle this until someone is held responsible.
"It's just frustrating that people don't think ahead of time to ask about these kinds of things, when they make such a huge visual change," commission member Nicky Baker said. "There are rules that need to be followed."