Today, after filing a public records request, I learned how much Daniel and Richard Gatti are being fined for destroying four street trees after failing to get a permit, as required by a City of Salem ordinance: $2,000, $500 per tree. Here's the PDF file I got.
Download 20-132 Enforcement Order-Notice Redacted_Redacted
One of the mangled Gatti street trees
However, here's part of what I said in my first blog post about the tree destruction, "Gatti brothers trash street trees. City of Salem needs to fine them, big-time."
Wow. Richard Gatti knew he shouldn't trim street trees on public property without getting approval from the city. He didn't use a licensed tree service. He didn't tell the contractor what to do.
If this behavior doesn't end up with Gatti paying a big fine from the City of Salem, then city officials should give up any claim to being dedicated to protecting Salem's trees.
This sort of needless tree destruction has been going on for many years. It has to stop.
Making people who trash street trees pay for the full cost of replacing the trees with comparable ones of the same size would send a message that the City of Salem is serious about protecting public property in the form of valuable street trees.
I've seen an estimate on Facebook by a certified arborist that the value of the trees Gatti destroyed could be over $75,000. So there's no way Gatti should get off with a $2,000 fine per tree -- though even that would be more than the zero fine that the city spokeswoman said would be levied.
Now, I thought the $2,000 fine was for each tree removed, but apparently the maximum fine for unpermitted tree removals is $2,000, no matter how many trees were destroyed. See:
There's a key question that remains to be answered. SRC 86.105(c) says this about restoring damaged trees. I've boldfaced parts for emphasis.
Costs of restoration. Persons violating this chapter, or a permit issued hereunder, shall be responsible for restoring damaged areas in conformance with a plan approved by the Director that provides for repair of any environmental or property damage and restoration of the site. Costs of restoration shall be not less than those determined equal to the monetary value of the regulated trees removed in violation of this chapter, or permit issued hereunder, as set forth in an appraisal acceptable to the Director and based upon applicable administrative rules. Each removal of a regulated tree in violation of this chapter shall result in a separate civil fine in addition to costs of restoration.
So it appears that an appraisal of the value of the trees that were destroyed by the Gatti brothers needs to be conducted. Then the Gatti's have to pay at least the amount of that appraisal -- which seemingly could amount to tens of thousands of dollars, given the size of the trees that were destroyed.
Yet as shown below, the Restoration Agreement discussed in a letter that went to the Gatti brothers doesn't mention the appraisal. Hopefully this was just an oversight, because otherwise the Restoration Agreement would be in violation of SRC 86.105(c).
As it stands, the Restoration Agreement seems to allow for the possibility that Daniel and Richard Gatti could replant much smaller trees, which obviously would take many years to grow to the size of the trees that were illegally destroyed. This shouldn't be allowed.
UPDATE: The Statesman Journal has a story on the fine, "Gatti fined $2,000 for illegal tree trimming." (headline of print edition) These quotes from Richard Gatti make him sound unrepentant and insensitive to the plight of homeless people.
Gatti said that, though he doesn't think the trees were harmed, he is willing to replace them. But he said he's "livid" that the city fined him. He plans to appeal the fine.
"Apparently, being a taxpayer and homeowner, property owner, making an effort to keep the property in great condition, having made a mistake, the city now wants to punish me by citing and fining me," Gatti said. "I find that a double standard and outrageous."
"When I drive into the city I see campers on the right-of-ways, destroying the ground, leaving their trash, their needles, their feces all in the right-of-way, not one of whom has been or is being cited or fined," Gatti said.
"I see their priority," he said of city officials. "Their priority is those who contribute nothing to this city. The ones who make it a better place to live are the ones they want to drive out of here and punish."
You'd think that Gatti would know that courts have ruled that homeless people can't be banned from sleeping outside if there aren't enough shelter beds to house them, and that the City of Salem has banned homeless camping throughout the city.
The way I read the penalty matrix, they were assessed per tree.
Posted by: Michael Slater | January 29, 2020 at 09:41 PM
I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV, but it looks to me like the Gatti brothers violated SRC 86.120c, but they are only being charged with violating SRC 86 030a. The latter covers topping a tree, but the former is about removing a tree -- the definition of which includes removing "more than 30% of the crown" which is certainly true in this case. Curiously the form that charges them under SRC 030a says that they "removed" four trees. So why weren't they charged under SRC 86 120c? The penalty for that is up to $2,000 per violation "in addition to the value of the tree."
Posted by: Jim Scheppke | January 30, 2020 at 09:15 AM