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Burlington man says city-owned tree damaged his property - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington man says city-owned tree damaged his property

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

If roots from a city-owned tree damage your property who should pay? A Burlington man says he's getting a tough lesson in Queen City regulations.

"They're not treating me fairly at all," said Rodney Martel, from Burlington.

Martel is a lifelong Burlington resident, but says he doesn't like what he's learning about the city he calls home.

"If I'm responsible for the roots of the tree, shouldn't I be able to cut the tree down? No, they won't let me! But I'm responsible for the roots! But I can't cut the darn tree down? That is not right! One and one is two, not 11," said Martel.

The issue is a crabapple tree outside Martel's duplex. The city owns the tree, but Martel says its roots damaged his sewer service and leaks led to repeated sinkholes on Hayward Street.

Martel did not want Public Works crews to fill in the sinkhole without repairing his sewer service. Martel says he's been unemployed for two years and estimates to fix the sewer line are $10,000 to $11,000.

But the city says that it's Martel's problem.

"We are responsible for the mains in the street, the service to the home is the homeowner's responsibility," said Chapin Spencer from Burlington Public Works.

He says homeowners may not realize it, but they need to maintain their own sewer lines. He says tree roots busting into sewer lines is a common problem around the city and scans by Public Works crews show some leaks in Martel's sewer service were not near roots.

"In your basement there should be a way to open up into your sewer system and run an auger out to the city main service and make sure any roots that you have in your service line can be removed," said Spencer.

"Even though it’s the city's fault and it's their tree? I asked them to remove the tree six years ago. That tree don't belong here. It's a crabapple tree; it belongs in the country. It's a nice tree, it gives you beauty for two days and it's not worth it around the city," said Martel.

Spencer says trees add beauty and shade to urban neighborhoods and suggested Martel call the city's insurance company about filing a claim.

"He can certainly file a claim and we can have that discussion," said Spencer.

In the meantime, there is a temporary fix on the sewer line and the street. But Martel says if his sewer service stops working the city's Code Enforcement division plans to shut down the building putting him and his two tenants on the street until it's fixed.

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