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Chester County Press

Landenberg residents resolve dispute with PECO over tree-trimming error

05/19/2020 12:52PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

On a recent afternoon, Ryan Crawford pulled into his driveway on Glen Road in Landenberg.

Ahead of him was the home he shares with his wife Sarah and their 3-year old daughter. Fairly modern in design, the home is nestled in the warm surroundings of old trees to the point where it seems it is cloaked in a canopy of peace and serenity near the White Clay Creek Preserve.

At the foot of his driveway, Crawford paused to inspect the work being done by the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) of the Exelon Corporation -- undergoing a tree trimming project that would necessitate the removal of some very old trees along Glen and Indiantown roads, in order to make way for upgraded infrastructure and taller communication poles.

Crawford looked up and saw a hole in the sky where a treasured natural heirloom had once been. The giant red oak tree, located 16 feet from the road and estimated to be 160 years old, had been severed down to its basic bones earlier that day, and its limbs lay in tangled heaps at the foot of the driveway. According to the correspondence the Crawfords and their neighbors had received from PECO, the trees that were slated for removal were all identified by a pink ribbon.

The giant red oak tree did not have a pink ribbon.

It was never marked for removal.

On May 11, the Crawfords shared their concerns at the end of their driveway with Scott Neumann, head of external affairs for PECO, Brandon Miller and Andrew Adami of the Davey Resource Group and London Britain Township Supervisors Aileen Parrish and Brian Sachs.

“This is really disturbing,” Ryan Crawford said. “I told my wife that it’s like having a wrought iron gate at our entryway that a truck drives through. You can replace the wrought-iron gate, but you can’t replace a 160-year-old tree. We're understanding that there are infrastructure needs, but we want to know what’s in the detailed plan and why this beautiful tree got cut.”

Both Miller and the Crawfords discussed the layers of correspondence that area residents had received announcing the project, as well as back-and-forth missed phonecalls and unanswered emails that had transpired over the last several weeks. At one point in the meeting, Miller handed Ryan Crawford a document that spelled out the details of the tree-trimming project; specifically, what trees had been marked for removal.

Crawford said that it was the first time he had seen the document.

“My pain point was that at every step of the process, we had asked a lot of detailed questions that couldn’t be answered, which I found troubling,” he said. “There was no justification nor any rhyme or reason as to what trees would be cut. I never saw the piece of paper that specified the trees they will take, the number of trees, the size, the species and why they were doing it.”

Neumann said that when a line is being upgraded, it requires the need to follow the latest PECO safety standards; currently, the new standard is that trees need be removed if they are approximately 14 feet or less from the poles.

“It’s a safety issue,” Neumann said. “Tree trimming is not only important for reliability, it’s important for safety. Line work is a difficult job, and people get injured. There has to be a proper clearance so people can safely work. When you think of someone out here during a cold, rainy night fixing your power, that’s why the zone clearance has been created.

“It’s expensive, but it’s really is imperative for safety purposes.”

In a letter sent to the Chester County Press earlier in the week, Sarah Crawford expressed her concern for the impact of large-scale removal of trees by PECO will have.

“Such lack of proper assessment and indiscriminate clearing of trees is forever altering the landscape of Landenberg and I fear will negativity impact White Clay Creek,” she wrote. “A substantial amount of lumber has been discarded down the side of the hill to the creek, which I worry will disturb its natural flow and increase sediment levels. I worry that the loss of all these trees will also cause substantial erosion to the hill into the creek.

Sarah Crawford later echoed her sentiments at the driveway meeting on May 11.

“We didn’t understand exactly what they were asking us, and we never had someone come here and identify every single tree,” she said. “It was more strong-armed, in the sense that ‘This is what we’re doing, you don’t have a say, and we can do whatever we want.’

“It’s heartbreaking that these trees that have been here for a hundred-plus years, and they have met their demise because of this project.”

Parrish said that while London Britain Township does not have the legal authority to stop the PECO project, she said she was surprised at the number of trees it was taking down.

“I spoke with the township engineer and he said that the very least, they need to reseed and mulch and smooth out any damage they have done along our roadsides, and they will need to do new matting on all of the road slopes,” she said. “The township was notified in writing that the project was going to involve tree work, but no one had any idea of the scope of the work, and the extent to which they are cutting.”

Both Miller and Neumann apologized to the Crawfords for the miscommunication that led to the damage of the unmarked red oak tree.

“I apologize that the communication didn’t go as well as we wanted here,” Neumann said. “Normally, what would happen is that if Mr. Crawford had some issues that he had to discuss this further, we would have a meeting, and we would explore different options. We generally try to make everybody as happy as possible.”

On May 12, Ryan Crawford sent an email to Neumann, stating that while the meeting the day before began poorly, I will say that I am pleased it ended after and hour-and-a-half with acknowledgment, apology and pleasantry,” he wrote.

In his email, Crawford also responded to Neumann’s request of what PECO could provide as remediation for the fallen red oak tree. Some of the considerations discussed included carving and preserving a bench seat into the remaining stump of the tree; planting two trees at either side of the driveway that will not interfere with poles in the future; and ensuring removal and remediation of all down limbs and lumber.

On May 15, Neumann met again with the Crawfords, along with Tonia Graham, the manager for the three-trimming project and a third-party landscaper. Neumann and Graham agreed to the Crawford’s suggestions.

“I feel a whole lot better about this than I did last Monday, or any time prior,” Ryan Crawford said. “It was unfortunate that we had to get to this point, but everyone was professional, polite and detail oriented in this follow-up meeting. While Sarah and I are appreciative of their efforts to make this right, it’s not going to bring a 160-year-old tree back.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].