Mobile woman says city’s tree ordinance is too strict

MOBILE, Ala. – A Mobile woman is trying to get her life back on track after a huge oak tree destroyed her home last week. Her story raises questions about the city’s tree ordinance.

The tree that fell into Brenda Harvey’s house on Moffett Court last week was gone Monday. All that was left was a huge stump and a demolished home. The homeowner is focused on trying to salvage as much as she can from the debris, but she also believes the city should be more lenient when it comes to cutting trees in Mobile.

Brenda Harvey said it was nature that destroyed her home, but she said the city of Mobile also makes it difficult for homeowners to protect themselves from potentially dangerous trees.

This is what she told us this weekend as crews worked to get the 300 year old oak off her home.

“It’s historic right, well they got to be cut to protect people from losing everything. It’s historic yeah, now I’ve got the history of my life gone. I have nothing. I have no vehicles, I have no home,” Harvey said.

Harvey said she was concerned about huge limbs from the tree four years ago. That’s when she contacted the city.

“I said can you cut them or what, and they said no all you can really do is trim them. Well, trimming wouldn’t have helped that anyway,” she explained.

Fox10 News went to the Urban Development Department at Government Plaza to get more information about the city’s tree policy. We were told we would have to talk to the city attorney who was out of town.

We found some information on the city’s Urban Development web page in the “frequently asked questions” section.

Under the question: “When do I need a permit for trimming or removing trees on my property?”

These were the answers we found:

The 1992 Tree Ordinance requires a permit,

If you live in a Historic District.

If it is R-1 undeveloped property.

If your R-3 business or industry has been built since 1992.

And, if you were required under a Board of Adjustment or Planning Commission decision.

Natural sound “if it’s historic then that the historic district take care of it.”

Harvey said even if she had been able to cut the tree back, she’s not sure it would have made any difference, because the whole tree fell on her house. But she does believe more leniency on the part of the city could possibly save some other homeowners a lot of grief in the future.

City Attorney, Ricardo Woods did call us late Monday afternoon. He was in Ohio. Woods said the Live oaks and Hertiage oaks are protected under the city’s tree ordinance. He said he would provide us with specific details on the ordinance when he gets back in town.

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