PAULDEN - Ron Weiss has spent about $3,000 installing irrigation and controlling insects attacking his 32 full-grown Leland cypress trees in the past few years, only to learn they may not really be on his property. The trees are on a county right-of-way and could be cut down by county work crews.
The situation came to light when a couple of neighbors in his Rimrock subdivision circulated a petition complaining that Yavapai County had not maintained the roads there properly since 1996, asking the county to fix the problems, and implying that legal action would be taken if it did not.
That petition was sent to the county with more than 60 signatures on it.
One sentence, though, has caused Weiss' problems: "In a few areas, there is overgrowth interfering with line-of-sight on dangerous curves." With no further description, Weiss said, an official determined that the "overgrowth" consisted of his well-manicured trees.
On Dec. 18, he said, Doug Federico, the county's area roads superintendent, visited him and said the petition "was requesting that the trees in front of my house be removed because they were an obstruction hazard."
Weiss believes the man who circulated the petition, Joe Moneglia, created the problem. "One or two individuals have their own personal agenda," Weiss said, "and they used the buzzwords of 'liability' and 'lawsuit' to get what they wanted."
But Moneglia said he never intended for Weiss' trees to become a target.
"The roads are almost disintegrating," he said, "and the petition was all about fixing the road. The one tree or shrub (that was an issue) was a natural tree that grew up by itself." He noted that the tree has been removed.
"They've cleaned up a bunch of stuff on the other side of the road - dead trees and brush," he said. "But whatever the county came up with didn't come from me."
Weiss emailed the people who signed the petition, explaining the problem, and about 30 replied, saying they didn't realize his trees were the ones the petition complained about.
Resident Bridget Preston's comments to Weiss were typical: "I had no idea about the trees and I would not have signed the petition if I knew it."
Several commented that if drivers obeyed the 25 mph speed limit on the road, there would be no sight problem in the first place.
Byron Jaspers, the county's Public Works director, said that may be true and the county will look at the problem before breaking out the saws and cutting down any trees.
"We'll do a study out there to see how fast the residents are going," Jaspers said, "and we'll look at the sight distance for that speed, and we'll try to work out a solution." That solution, he said, may not involve cutting the trees at all. For example, Jaspers said, additional speed limit signs may work.
"We don't automatically cut down trees," he added, saying the county is in no rush to remove Weiss' cypresses.
But Weiss really has no say in what happens with the trees.
"They claim they're on their (county) property. They have never - since the day they've been there - treated or taken care of any of the trees," Weiss said, and the trees were planted in the mid-1990s by the developer. "I put a lot of money into them, and I had no idea they were on county property."
Jaspers sympathizes. "We will make every effort to work with him," he said. "These trees, I don't think there's any question they were planted in the right-of-way - they're not on private property. It's always good to know, when you purchase the property, where the right-of-way actually is."