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Tree cutting draws ire of Chestnut Bend residents

Chestnut Bend residents raised signs in protest of the trimming and cutting of a tree line on the Franklin High School property bordering the subdivision.  

Early last Friday morning a 70-year old tree line on Joel Cheek Boulevard, marking the entrance to the Chestnut Bend subdivision and the Franklin High property line, was cut down prompting an angry response from residents. 
The tree cutting was part of Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation’s program to keep powerline right of ways clear. 
The right of way is a total of 40 feet—20 feet on either side of the powerlines.
According to Chestnut Bend resident and homeowner’s association president Mike Vaughn, he heard the trucks about 7 a.m. Friday.
“I’m thinking this would be a normal trim of this 50-year old tree line,” Vaughn said.
At 9:30 a.m., he heard chainsaws and realized it was more than a trim.
“I walked down to see three or four big trees cut down,” he said.
He went back home and called MTEMC, Williamson County Schools and the City of Franklin in attempt to get somebody’s attention. 
By 12:30 p.m., Vaughn said he had called the Franklin Police Department because the tree cutters started getting in the way of the Hillsboro Road traffic.
The tree cutting was halted and efforts are now being made to address the homeowner’s concerns.
“We can’t put the trees back, but we want to find out what we can do that will help everybody,” said Josh Clendenen, communications coordinator for MTEMC. 
“We want to have an open dialogue with the school and the homeowners association about what we can do. We want to work things out.”
According to Clendenen, protocol includes notifying the property owner when tree trimming or removal is about to occur. 
In this case, since the tree line was on Franklin High property a MTEMC representative notified Mark Samuels with Williamson County Schools about the upcoming tree removal.
“In the past we have only trimmed the trees, but as our system continued to grow, we had to look at our standard and take measures to ensure trees were not encroaching on powerlines,” Clendenen said. “Eighty percent of outages are caused by trees.”
According to Vaughn, “somebody” at MTEMC in the Murfreesboro office told him that if a tree line is not maintained “they cut it down.” 
“We had an agreement with the school to keep the fence row and community tree line maintained,” Vaughn said. “They maintain one side of the road and us the other.”
To the tree cutters, the tree line appeared to have not been maintained.
“What’s the definition of maintain?” Vaughn asked. “Who’s got the field notes? Who made the decision?”
Although MTEMC attempts to minimally impact trees, they also look at the long-term/short-term effects and safety for line crews and the power system, Clendenen said. 
After awhile, he said trimming isn’t enough. To ensure uninterrupted service to customers, sometimes cutting trees down is the only option. 
That may have been the case with the Chestnut Bend tree line, but Vaughn believes there are other things to consider. The trees were a part of the history of the Joel Cheek Farm.
Although the City of Franklin has a tree ordinance that prevents residents and developers from topping trees, it does not apply to the public utility right of way, said Todd Snackenberg, Franklin city arborist. 
“They can go in and trim or remove the trees if they deem they are in the way or are a hazard,” Snackenberg said. “In an unmaintained right of way they push to get the full 20-foot clearance so nothing grows back.”
Chestnut Bend turned out to be a unique circumstance and Clendenen said that the homeowners association should have also been notified.
“This is a learning process,” he said. “One of our main goals is to provide outstanding service. If going the extra mile means telling subdivisions and help them understand what we do then that’s what we need to do. Ultimately what it comes down to is finding the right people to notify.”
A meeting is being planned with representatives of the City of Franklin, WCS, MTEMC and Chestnut Bend homeowners to discuss the matter further.
“I want this incident to turn out positive,” Vaughn said. 

Posted on: 1/8/2014


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