Newport City Councilors took a step closer to making Newport a “Tree City USA” community Monday night. However, it’s not going to happen with a quick unanimous vote. Newport still has plenty of work to do to earn that esteemed monicker.
For one thing, the city must update its street tree plan which requires compiling a list of appropriate trees native to the area, as well as where they should be placed relative to streets, public rights of way, overhead power lines and other contingencies. Under the street tree plan, care should be given to ensure that tree roots do not attack sewer or water lines, or up-heave sidewalks causing the city major expenses.
One other aspect that caught the attention of councilor David Allen was a provision that residents owning trees (or hedges) that are too close to a street intersection, causing line-of-sight problems, could be held financially liable for car crashes and medical bills if visibility problems contributed to the accident. As it is, city code inspection personnel don’t go out looking for these kinds of problems. But when complaints are filed by drivers or anyone else, the knock on the door will soon follow with an order to do something about the obscuring vegetation. Either a removal of brush or the trimming of branches up to 8′ off the ground can be mandated, even under current law. Becoming a Tree City USA city simply reiterates that fact.
Councilor Allen convinced the council that the city should notify residents of this provision in the law through flyers or water bill notices, so they know that when they harbor sight obscuring vegetation within 35 feet of an intersection, they do so at their own financial peril.