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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Original Author: Darden, Don
Date of Material: 07/03/2003

Trees--Laws and regulations
Streets--Laws and regulations
Right of way

Tree on City Street Right of Way

Reviewed Date: 07/12/2021
MTAS was asked whether the town should cut a tree on a city street right of way.

Yesterday, I looked at the tree that is on the property near the railroad. It appeared to me that the tree is on street right of way. It also appeared to me that the tree is not interfering with vehicle or pedestrian traffic. If the limbs are too low for large trucks, the town might desire to trim the limbs. The tree did not appear to be leaning out over the street, and the tree did not appear to be hollow and in danger of falling.

The property owner whose property adjoins the right of way where the tree is located is the owner of the tree. The Town of Wartrace does not own the tree. The Town of Wartrace has a street right of way, and, as long as the tree is not impeding traffic, the town has no obligation to cut the tree. Duck River Electric also has an easement for its power lines, and I noticed that these power lines extend right through the main fork of the tree. It may well be that Duck River Electric might cut the tree, if the town and/or owner of the tree requests that it be cut. I am not sure what Duck River's policies are on this. In Nashville, the Nashville Electric Service will cut such trees upon request in the interest of keeping their power lines free from limbs.

The Town of Wartrace would be obligated to cut the tree if it appears to be a safety problem for the street or if it is impeding traffic. I do not think that that is the case here. I am not a tree expert. I would suggest that the Mayor and Aldermen look at the tree and determine, in their judgement, if this tree represents a hazard to street traffic. If it does, then they might want to spend the money to have it removed. An alternative might be to have a tree removal company look at it and advise the city as to the soundness of the tree.

I would not cut it!

Don J. Darden
Municipal Management Consultant