Tree cut down after Highland Park neighbor dispute

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A Highland Park family was worried about their neighbor's tree, which looming over their home. (WLS)

ABC7 I-TEAM INVESTIGATION
A Northshore family no longer has to worry about a giant tree looming over their home.

Worried that a tree would crash through their home, the Tang family contacted the ABC7 I-Team after their neighbors refused to remove it and the city of Highland Park was unable to help much. Now they hope a petition will help others with similar tree troubles.

Elizabeth Tang and her family are thankful for the sounds of chainsaws, but it came months after months of concern.

Last spring, a storm caused huge branches of a Norway maple tree to damage the roof over their daughter's bedroom.

"The morning that the heavy tree branches fell on our home, some of the tree branches barricaded our home shut," Tang said. "That tree branch could have easily snapped the main power line we would have been trapped in a burning house."

The Tang family hired two arborists who determined the tree was rotting from the top.

While 80 percent of the tree is on Tang's property, it originates on their neighbor's. The neighbors declined the Tang's offer their arborist did not agree that the tree was an imminent danger.

"I believe it's the local government's job to look out for the safety of all of its residents not just the public's safety," Tang said.

Highland Park's city code allows it to cite a homeowner if a tree is dangerous to the general public but not if it's threatening another private resident. So, the city manager sent the neighbors two letters requesting they work with the Tangs.

Nothing happened, so the Tangs called the I-Team.

"Had it not been for that we would still be feeling unsafe," Tang said.

With the city facilitating, the neighbors agreed to let the Tangs pay for the tree to be taken down. The Tangs contacted their elected officials and posted a petition online to see if there was public interest in changing the city's ordinance to protect residents when neighbor-conflict conversations break down.

"I've collected 177 signatures in just five days which lead me to realize that this ordinance amendment is not only a need for residents but a strong desire for change," Tang said.

But City Manager Ghida Neukirch doesn't see that change coming soon.

"Sometimes the city helps those conversations but at this time the city is not looking at changing legislation in this manner," Neukirch said.

The Tangs say they will be speaking about their hopes for a tree ordinance change at a city council meeting this fall.

Before taking any action in a neighbor dispute, check your local ordinances to make sure you do not violate any laws. Experts say the best thing to do is start a friendly conversation with your neighbor to try to working things out.

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