For my first landscaping squabble-related post of the new year, I thought I’d share the latest developments in the heated dispute between two self-proclaimed Christians — one a bible-thumping retired American League superstar, the other a Presbyterian minister — and a rare 50-foot Chinese pine stuck in the middle of it all.
In a written ruling doled out last month, it was decided that the arboreal-minded Seattle suburb of Clyde Hill will issue, for the first time, a residential tree-cutting order under the city’s 22-year-old “view obstruction and tree removal” ordinance that allows for the removal of trees if they prove to obstruct a neighbor’s sunlight and/or scenic views. I should point out the Clyde Hill website boasts that the city's "park-like towering evergreens and a lush profusion of northwestern foliage on public and private property are the pride of its friendly citizens and a delight to visitors."
The tree — actually two trees, the aforementioned Chinese pine estimated to be worth $18,000 along with a Colorado spruce — subject to the cutting order stand proudly on the Lake Washington property of Microsoft expat-turned-pastor-turned business ethics professor Bruce Baker and his wife, Linda. For reasons that boggle the mind, in 2008 the Baker’s friend and neighbor, former Mariners first baseman John Olerud, decided to tear down his old home and construct a massive one-story custom-built home uphill from chez Baker.
Once work on the 6,680-square-foot manse was completed in 2009 and Olerud and his family moved into their new digs, it was then decided that the towering trees across the street, much beloved by the Baker family, would be a touch problematic in the view-savoring department. Who would have thought!?
As reported by the Seattle Times, Olerud told the city Board of Adjustment that Baker’s trees obstructed 40 percent of what would otherwise be a 30-degree view of Lake Washington, downtown Seattle, and the mighty Olympic Mountains. According to an appraisal commissioned by Olerud, removing the trees would boost the value of his $4 million home by $225,000. These stats, not all the tree insulting and obnoxious good neighbor/Jesus-talk Olerud spewed in Baker’s direction at a public hearing, were enough for the board to rule in his favor. Writes the Times: “The Board of Adjustment ruled the existing trees unreasonably obstruct the Oleruds' view while providing only a minor benefit to the Bakers in visual screening, wildlife habitat and morning shade.” (That's not the view from Olerud's home pictured up top but a similar view enjoyed in the area. You can see images of one of the offending trees here).
The Bakers will not appeal with the City Council.
The decision comes after a couple years of persistent — and one would imagine passive-aggressive — pestering on Olerud’s part. It was after getting shut down repeatedly by Baker, a homeowner who loved and valued the trees on his property and didn't want to see them go, Olerud turned to the city to handle the dispute.
Says David Brenner, the Bakers’ lawyer, of the outcome: “They concluded that while they weren't happy with the order or the ultimate decision, they wanted to make peace with their uphill neighbors while also protecting the interests of the other people with trees in Clyde Hill.” The Bakers did find one aspect of the ruling fair, however: Olerud must cough up the entire bill — as much as $64,440 — to have the two trees removed and replaced with two shore pines.
The Olerud camp didn’t have much to say, although attorney Paul Taylor noted that his clients were pleased that the case had been resolved. Jesus declined to comment.
More over at the Seattle Times including a rather spirited conversation amongst readers in the comments section.
MNN tease photo of tree being cut: Shutterstock