Man accused of felling trees in Breckenridge suffers stroke |

Man accused of felling trees in Breckenridge suffers stroke

BRECKENRIDGE – A court hearing for a Breckenridge man charged with illegally cutting down nine trees in his yard to improve the view was postponed Wednesday after the man suffered a stroke.

According to Breckenridge Municipal Judge Buck Allen, Al Nilsson is still in the hospital, and a new court date has yet to be scheduled. It is not known when he suffered the stroke.

It is illegal to cut down trees in Breckenridge without a permit. Nilsson faces nine criminal charges – one for each tree. If found guilty, he could face fines totalling $8,100, said community development director Peter Grosshuesch.

Nilsson admitted cutting down the trees in February after a citizen noticed the fallen trees and called a Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Commission member, who then notified the town planning department.

The trees were lodgepole pines ranging in diameter from 10 to 20 inches and averaging 70 feet in height. Nilsson was in the process of selling the home, located in the Goldflake subdivision overlooking Carter Park to author and sports writer Mitch Albom when the citizen discovered the trees. Nilsson closed on the sale of the home three days after cutting the trees.

According to Breckenridge town planners, Nilsson said he cut down the trees to improve the views of the Tenmile Range but said he was unaware town codes require residents to obtain a permit. Town codes discourage tree-cutting to maintain the town’s rural mountain character and screen homes from the valley below. The removal of these trees has made the house highly visible from Carter Park and the neighboring sledding hill.

Town staff members said they believe the removal of the trees negatively impacted the natural landscape, the sense of mountain environment, screening and privacy.

Typically, when a tree is cut down – intentionally or accidentally – the town requires replacing the tree with one of similar species and diameter. That won’t be possible with these larger trees.

In April, the Breckenridge Planning Commission approved a retroactive permit request by Nilsson and Albom to cut down and replace the trees. Town officials required the men go through the permitting process, in part so mitigation requirements could be addressed.

Planning commissioners struggled with the request because they were unsure if replacing the trees, plus any court penalties that might result from felling them, is enough to deter others from doing the same thing.

Nilsson’s and Albom’s application said they would like to replace the trees Nilsson felled with 18 trees whose caliper inches equal that of the trees that were cut down. Fourteen 12-foot-tall trees are to be planted along the edge of the sledding hill; four will be planted elsewhere on the slope. Town staff modified the application before town officials approved it by requiring larger trees in some areas.

No trees have been planted on the property yet.

Town planners also wanted Nilsson and Albom to plant two 24-foot-tall trees adjacent to the deck overlooking the park to screen the home from the valley below.

Additionally, the two men have requested permission to install an irrigation system to ensure the trees survive, and replace any trees lost during the planting work, some of which will require a crane to navigate trees around on the steep slope.

The town planning commission approved the request in hopes the two men would plant new trees. Just because they requested to doesn’t mean they will.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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