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'It's a start': Mayor negotiates limited moratorium on tree cutting

LINDA GORTON SPEAKS FOR THE TREES.jpg
Posted at 6:30 PM, Dec 01, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Rather than meeting with Mayor Linda Gorton inside her downtown office this morning as originally planned, Madame Mayor decided to take a little road trip and asked if we could meet her at the final destination. We were happy to oblige knowing that trip was going to end right in the middle of a pack of disgruntled residents of the Lansdowne Drive area.

Mrs. Gorton wanted to meet with her constituents, who for months have been pleading with the city and Kentucky Utilities to preserve many of the trees that had been designated for removal. KU has concerns that the trees are already presenting a hazard to power lines, or they will in the future.

“Those lines are like a superhighway for this grid. If it loses power you’re talking about schools, hospitals, street lights, homes, police stations. Everything will lose power,” said KU spokesperson, Daniel Lowry. Lowry said the safety of their linemen is also a concern.

“We can’t have someone killed because they were working and a tree was too close,” he stated.

Viable concerns and the mayor didn’t disagree.

“We all get that we need reliable electricity. That is not the question. The question is, how do we get there,” Mayor Gorton wondered.

The concern most people have is that most of the trees that were already cut down, or marked to be cut today, were so small (and fully mature), that they’d never be a threat to those power lines overhead. Some residents told LEX 18 on Monday that KU even told them to plant these trees years ago because they’d never present a danger to the lines.

But the utility company works with certified arborists and they determined that additional growth is likely, and could ultimately interfere with the lines, especially when they have to hold the weight of snow or ice.

Mayor Gorton and the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Council members filed a complaint on Tuesday with the Kentucky Public Service Commission and requested a court-ordered injunction. Waiting for a ruling on that could take days, and by then more trees would be gone.

The residents of Lansdowne told the mayor this should’ve been dealt with before cutting was scheduled to begin on Monday. She heard their concerns, then slipped off to the street corner for a few minutes where she’d successfully negotiate a moratorium with KU.

“They are going to modify their cutting,” she said of the compromise she reached. The smaller trees that are not currently a threat will remain – for now. She basically bought a little extra time.

“We’re all interested in working together. This is what this is all about,” Mrs. Gorton said of the compromise and continued discussions the two sides are now likely to have.

“It’s a start. It’s a starting point and I’m really glad the mayor came,” said Laurie Varellas, who grew up in the area.

“It’s definitely progress,” Mayor Gorton added.