Stumped, Westminster refers issue of tree responsibility to commission

Westminster's City Council was set last night to adopt an ordinance that would make property owners responsible for trees the city plants on residential streets when Mayor W. Benjamin Brown raised a counterpoint.

"I hope you find that, on principle, as objectionable as I do," the mayor said. "If the city plants the trees, the city should maintain them."


The council then referred the issue to the city Tree Commission for a recommendation on whether the city should assume responsibility for maintaining the trees it plants.

Mr. Brown said he has a city-planted tree in the grass median outside his Pennsylvania Avenue home. But he said his point was not based on personal concern about maintaining that tree.


"Walking up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, I noticed that some people were maintaining the trees and some were not," he said. "And I heard complaints. People said, 'I didn't ask for this tree.' "

Public Works Director Thomas B. Beyard said initial maintenance costs will be low because the trees are small. But he said maintenance costs for mature trees could add up to $25,000 a year to the city budget.

Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein said that when the mayor discussed the issue with her last week, she had suggested referring it to the Tree Commission. The commission wrote the ordinance and should be involved in questions such as how much liability the city would assume by agreeing to maintain the trees, she said.

Mr. Brown countered that Ms. Orenstein had asked him only to contact the Tree Commission, not to refer the question to it.

Council President Kenneth A. Yowan pointed out that if the city pays for maintenance of the trees, all taxpayers will share the cost for individuals who benefit from having trees in front of their homes.

Councilman Damian L. Halstad said the mayor's position appealed to his libertarian instincts, although he said he is concerned that the council "might be called spendthrifts" for adding to the budget.

Councilman Edward S. Calwell said he is concerned about increasing the city staff's workload.