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Neighbors share concerns over KU tree removal plan at Lexington city meeting

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:46 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Neighbor after neighbor spoke before the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council Tuesday to voice frustrations over plans by Kentucky Utilities to uproot countless trees as part of a vegetation management program to prevent trees from falling close to lines, or growing into them.

Officials with KU also went before council to discuss their plan.

Neighbors from several neighborhoods, mostly the Lakes Edge and Glenhill area of Lexington, spent nearly an hour and a half sharing their concerns with this plan. One group even presented a 37-page slideshow to council.

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They said they are concerned with not just the visual impacts the removal of these trees will have on their neighborhood, but cited environmental concerns that the trees prevent in their neighborhood.

“One of the things that’s most attractive about Lexington are these beautiful, mature trees that we have. It’s just an absolute shame to me that these trees have to seemingly come down with no real compromise by KU. At least it seems that way,” neighbor Jason Harris said.

Neighbors aren’t the only ones upset by the move, and what they feel is a lack of communication. City leaders are just as bothered.

“I have asked on numerous occasions for this kind of a presentation to come forward to this government for public transparency with no avail,” Councilwoman Susan Lamb said.

Mayor Linda Gorton addressed council and KU officials, and spoke about a meeting she had Monday with company leaders about their plans, and the importance the tree canopy is to Lexington. She asked the company to consider six factors, including better communication to neighbors, compromising on the 15-foot tree height cutoff, and pause any clearing while they consider her requests.

“I personally believe that in most cases, we probably don’t have to cut down trees to get to that. So that’s what I’m asking them to consider,” Mayor Gorton said.

Officials with KU presented and explained the clearing plan and were grilled by council. They said they heard and understand the concerns homeowners have, but said their Enhanced Vegetation Management Program is designed to “improve line safety and reliability.” They argued programs like this have helped cut power outages outside of major events by 40 percent.

“We did come here to listen today. We come to all the meetings to listen. We want to solicit feedback. We want to take that and continuously improve our program,” said Kyle Burns with Kentucky Utilities.

Just this past Saturday, Lexington was recognized as a National Tree City for the 33rd year in a row.

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