Town hopes to settle illegal tree cutting case Wednesday
BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge town attorneys will ask Municipal Judge Buck Allen to approve an agreement Wednesday between the town and a man who illegally chopped down nine trees in his yard overlooking Carter Park.
The former owner of the house, Al Nilsson, is accused of illegally cutting down trees to improve views for the house in the Goldflake subdivision. It is illegal to cut down trees in Breckenridge without a permit. He was scheduled to appear in court last week but suffered a stroke and is at home with his wife, Carol, in Palm Harbor, Fla. His right side is paralyzed.
According to Seth Murphy, whose Leadville law firm represents the town, Nilsson and town officials were ready to strike an agreement when Nilsson suffered the stroke. Nilsson or his attorney, David Tyler, is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday. Murphy declined to outline details of the agreement, including the amount of the fine and how much he will pay to replace the trees.
“He’s going to plead guilty and pay some money to have the trees replanted,” Murphy said. “He’ll pay the money and the town will replant the trees.”
Town officials have said in the nine months since the trees were felled that they were worried the trees might never get replanted.
Nilsson cut the trees down a few days prior to selling the house to Mitch Albom, renowned sportswriter and author of “Tuesdays with Morrie.”
Town officials face two elements in the incident. One is the punishment aspect, requiring Nilsson to make reparations for cutting down the trees. Friends say Nilsson was willing to mitigate the damage but that town officials couldn’t decide what kind of punishment he should face.
The second aspect of the case is getting the new owner to replace the trees. Nilsson and Albom submitted an application earlier this year to replace the trees. The Breckenridge Planning Commission approved the application with a few modifications regarding tree placement on the property.
But just because the application has the stamp of approval from the town doesn’t mean Albom will – or even has to – plant the trees.
“There is nothing (in the town code) that forces anyone to act on it (applications),” said town planner Mike Mosher. “We don’t force people to build houses, and this is what this is. This is an application to plant trees. We may bite the big one on this guy.”
The town staff is in the process of changing the town codes to include punitive provisions that would empower town officials to take action when someone violates development codes. The town council also approved an ordinance recently that bans off-site mitigation, which, in the past, has enabled developers to plant trees in other areas or make contributions to nonprofit organizations, among other options.
Murphy said the town now is considering whether to pursue an investigation and possible charges against a Realtor it believes told Nilsson he could cut down the trees.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or email@example.com.
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