Raleigh man, Duke Energy face off over front yard tree
Posted May 29, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — A willow tree is the root of a legal battle between a Raleigh businessman and the nation's largest power company.
Duke Energy filed suit last week against John Kane Jr., the son of North Hills developer John Kane, claiming that the younger Kane won't accede to the utility's demand to remove the tree from his front yard on Brooks Avenue.
The tree is within Duke's easement across Kane's property and poses a threat to nearby 115,000-volt transmission lines that serve thousands of customers, the company said.
"Trees are one of the leading causes of outages in the Carolinas, and so, maintaining trees helps to reduce the number of outages and the duration of those outages," Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said. "As we go into the summer months that are ahead, the usage increases, and those lines can actually sag a little bit, and when they do, they can potentially come into contact with a tree."
Brooks said he couldn't speak specifically about Kane's tree because of the lawsuit, but he said the company evaluates trees to determine if they should be trimmed or removed. Any tree over 12 feet, he said, it meets the criteria for removal, and the easement gives the company the right to clear it out of the way.
Kane said the 44-foot-tall willow tree is a fixture in his yard and contends Duke is bullying him into removing it.
"The tree means a lot to us, to our family and the house," he said. "It's obviously a beautiful tree."
The company could simply prune some limbs to protect the power lines rather than take the whole tree, he said, adding that he offered to pay for the pruning himself.
"It's my belief that the reason they've taken this stance is because they are afraid to set a precedent that will be very costly to their bottom line," he said.
Duke also contends in its lawsuit that a 57-foot-tall dawn redwood tree on Kane's property encroaches on its easement across a neighbor's property. The neighbor has agreed that Duke has the right to remove the tree, but Kane has for months refused access to his property to cut it down, according to the suit.
A hearing on the dispute is set for Monday.