Highland Park homeowner, builder could face tree-cutting fines
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:21AM
A Highland Park homeowner and her builder could face steep fines for cutting off the tops of roughly 100 trees blocking a view of Lake Michigan.
The homeowner, Randi Elowe, and Bob Schrago of Shrago Design and Build of Highland Park entered “liable” pleas during a City of Highland Park administrative hearing on Aug. 16. At the next hearing Sept. 6, they could face substantial fines and be required to replace many of the trees.
The bluff property on the 100 block of Belle Avenue, close to Park Avenue Park, is located in a protected Steep Slope zone with tight restrictions to prevent erosion and jeopardize the stability of the bluff.
“Vegetative cover is needed to help secure the slope and if the slope starts to slide, the tableland follows and it could jeopardize the structure on the tableland,” said Joe O’Neill, the city’s forester. Property owners are prohibited from removing trees under most circumstances or taking action likely to result in the death, loss of value, loss of aesthetic value or substantial destruction of a tree or tree stump without obtaining a tree removal permit from the city forester.
According to O’Neill, 59 of the trees were greater than five inches in diameter and 37 were less than five inches. O’Neill said the trees less than five inches in diameter likely would survive.
“When I looked at the trees and the height they were cut at, they could be pruned correctively within standards. It was my feeling they would recover.” O’Neill said the tree topping, which was performed July 3, marked the second incident this year. Violators could be fined $1,000 per tree and required to complete a remediation plan to replace the trees.
Neither Schrago nor Elowe could be reached for comment.
The home on the property, which has been undergoing some renovation, is a 1927 Tutor Revival located in both a local and national historic district.~.