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Residents get update on Xcel trees issue

It might not seem like much of an issue if it ain't your backyard. But if you happen to live along the stretch of Woodlane Drive that had a long row of evergreen trees recently hacked off by Xcel Energy, it might be a big deal.

Residents who live in the homes that abut a line of businesses along Woodlane Drive were to have met with city officials Tuesday to get an update on the felled trees situation that began in 2007.

Early last year Xcel Energy representatives informed residents in the area they intended to cut down a line of evergreen trees they said presented a safety threat to the overhead power lines.

The trees had served for many years as a visual buffer between the homes and business that were lined back to back, and city officials originally maintained that per the city's tree preservation ordinance, Xcel would have to replace any trees it cut down.

Residents complained to city officials who attempted to work the issue out with the power company. But in September Xcel officials sent crews out to the site and removed the top half of dozens of trees in the area. Xcel said its easements for its power lines predated the city's tree preservation ordinance, which the city created in 2003.

Since then, many residents in the area have demanded Xcel replace the trees they say were planted more than 30 years ago as a visual buffer between the businesses including a 3M plant and Wulff Woodbury Funeral Home.

City environmental planner Steve Kernik said Xcel has been willing to completely remove the remnants of the hacked off trees and any buckthorn in the area. But he said the company has stated it will not pay for replacement trees.

"They did let us know that there are three types of replacement trees they would consider acceptable, because they wouldn't interfere with the power lines," Kernik said. "But they made it clear they don't want to contribute anything as far as replacing the trees."

Planning officials met with affected businesses in the area about the issue earlier this year. Kernik said some businesses expressed interest in helping to share the cost with residents for replacement trees, and others said they weren't interested in replacing the trees along the property line that separates the homes from the businesses.

The other possible option city officials presented to residents at the Tuesday meeting was to keep the hacked off trees as is.

Xcel told city officials they would prefer to remove the trees entirely, but they said they were content with the trees as is.

Kernik said residents may not be happy with either option, as the cut trees wouldn't survive.

"We just want to present the residents with the options and get their feelings, see if they're interested in some sort of group effort to replace the trees," Kernik said.