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Fischer: Overzealous neighbor should’ve heeded her inner Seuss

By Jen Fischer - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Apr 19, 2024

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Jen Fischer

“Way back in the days when the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean, and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space … one morning, I came to this glorious place. And I first saw the trees! The Truffula Trees! The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees! Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.”

Replace Dr. Suess’ classic Truffula Trees with the familiar Utah scrub oak tree and we have a modern case of the proverbial Hatfields vs. the McCoys, and it is all happening in my neck of the woods.

It all started when my neighbor, a soft-spoken and sensitive artist type and grandmother to 21 grandkids, decided to re-landscape her yard. She uprooted plants, moved rocks, amended soil and reshaped her entire front yard. Things were going swimmingly — literally, since part of her landscape project included installing an inground pool in their backyard — until she began to cut down the scrub oak on the north side of her lot. One morning, I had left early, and I noted my neighbor outside with a chainsaw in hand lopping down trees left and right. Unfortunately, she should have just lopped left and not right, since, as it turned out, the trees to the right were not on her property.

Returning once again to the story of the Truffula Trees, from the stump of the very first felled tree hopped a man. “He was shortish, and oldish, and brownish and mossy. And he spoke with a voice that was sharpish and bossy. Mister! He said with a sawdusty sneeze, I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees…for the trees have no tongues. And I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs — he was very upset as he shouted and puffed — What’s that THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?… Sir! You are crazy with greed. There is no one on earth who would buy that fool Thneed!”

“But the very next minute I proved he was wrong. For, just at that minute, a chap came along, and he thought that the Thneed I had knitted was great. He happily bought it for three ninety-eight. I laughed at the Lorax, You poor stupid guy! You never can tell what some people will buy. I meant no harm. I most truly did not. But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.”

Property boundary lines are a big deal. Ask the Hatfields and the McCoys. Even the smallest of encroachments by a neighbor may result in big consequences. At the end of the day, upon returning home, the entire side of the home was completely clear of trees. Seven of those trees did not belong to her. Although there is not a fence on that side defining a clear boundary, there is a property marker. There was no ill intent in removing the trees, just a free-thinking individual with untamed creativity. Unfortunately, however, her neighbor really loved his trees. They were mature, offered privacy, and protected his property. As a result, an agreement must be reached between the two parties, or a lawsuit may ensue.

According to Utah Code Section 78B-6-1002, if a person cuts down or injures a tree, he can be held liable for three times the value of the tree. It may cost between $30 and $3,000 to replace a common tree. If the tree is mature, it is likely on the higher side.

As for my unsolicited advice? I would recommend taking a page from Dr. Suess’ “The Lorax”: “He lets something fall. It’s a Truffula (scrub oak) Seed. It’s the last one of all! You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds. And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. (Then we can get our neighborhood back).”

Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jen@jen-fischer.com.


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