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Tree Lovers Confront PPL

PPL Corp. enforces its 25-, 35- and 50-foot rights-of-way throughout Lower Macungie Township.

At an emotionally-charged meeting of the Lower Macungie Board of Commissioners on Thursday, a room full of residents listened to a PPL Corp. spokesman explain the company's new policy: to remove any woody-stemmed vegetation that could potentially damage power lines.

Paul Wirth of PPL explained that the Halloween storms of the past two years caused widespread power outages when trees took down power lines. Additionally, they grow up into the lines and can cause arcing which also is dangerous.

"So we're cutting more trees down," Wirth said. "We understand that you don't like having trees removed, but as a company, we have a responsibility to tens of thousands of others."

PPL will enforce its legal right to clear intrusive vegetation from rights-of-way which means either 25, 35 or 50 feet on either side from the center of a utility pole and the connecting wires. In other words, the company will clear 50-, 70- or 100-foot swaths under its lines that run in the vicinity of East Texas, Lower Macungie and Millcreek roads and Willow and Sauerkraut lanes and into Alburtis. 

The cost of the power outages—sometimes even measured in human life—is absorbed by all the utility's customers, Wirth explained.

Furthermore, where trees are removed from the company's rights of way, there are few, if any, outages, he said.

All of it made perfect sense, of course, but made no difference. Countless trees on 49 properties throughout Lower Macungie that beautifully provide privacy, shelter, shade have been adorned with what one homeowner called "the ribbon of death."

The people want their trees.

After his initial presentation, Wirth and two other PPL representatives took questions in the room adjacent to the commissioners' meeting room.

While some were loaded for bear, Princeton Drive resident Pier Monaco's voice cracked as he quietly told Wirth that the targeted Kwanzan Cherry tree in his yard is a memorial to his late wife, Carol, who died in 2007. Wasn't there something they could do?

Earl Burnside of PPL agreed to meet with Monaco to see what could be done.

After the meeting, Wirth said Monaco's memorial may be on the list of approved trees. If not, perhaps it can be moved, he said.

Another resident, Beth Ravier said she's lived on Wayside Drive for eight years. She has three sons and a dog.

Cutting down the trees in her yard exposes her family to a busy road sets free kids, the dog and balls that are now contained.

"It's Hello, Sauerkraut!" she said.

"This is going to look like a war zone. That totally sucks. It's totally unacceptable," she said to Wirth.

Ravier is also annoyed that she's the one who will have to absorb the cost of replacing the trees. That sentiment was echoed by several homeowners.

PPL provides a list of acceptable replacement foliage, but will not pay to purchase or plant them, Wirth said.

tamarya March 08, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Lets just get something straight here, I wouldn't want the trees if our power company came in and provided free removal I would be more than happy to take them down. As for a pool, that is enclosed and has a ladder that flips up and locks, however I am still responsible if someone climbs into the pool without the ladder, plain and simple regardless of the accessibility of the pool anyone that enters it is trespassing, meaning breaking the law, yet we are accountable, but thats the responsibility we accept because we wanted the pool. PPL is taking these trees down at no cost and the homeowners do not want that they want the trees to remain, which to me means take liabilty then. I really do not get what you are saying accept that if you want something keep it but take no liabilty of it, that would be like us wanting the pool but if someone drowns in it we will not accept responsibilty for it.
tamarya March 08, 2013 at 09:04 PM
But anyway we put a pool up homeowners looks at that basically as a drown hazard, which it is no lie about that, as for trees they do damage also, and maintaining them that a person planting or choosing to keep one can find out from someone that specializes in landscaping, same way as any homeowner finds stuff out for maintaining stuff on their property, same way we got info for the pool. Not too hard to do.
Lori Smith Bowser March 09, 2013 at 02:19 PM
LMT and Keystone Consulting should together set up a fund or grant system to replace those trees (use some of that budget surplus money we have been saving) for 3 main reasons: 1. THEY allowed those trees to be planted in some cases as long ago as 20+years and as recent as 3 2. We would have a consistent look again along Sauerkraut and Willow that we will all miss 3. It would offset the loss of property value we will now face by losing all of our trees along willow and Sauerkraut
Michael D Siegel March 09, 2013 at 06:08 PM
The township should by tree seedlings from LCCD and plant them along the PPL right of way that meet the criteria of trees allowed in this area. By the way township, this a reverse frontal street buffer that the township required for land development that is now being destroyed- you do have a commitment to the residents who have this buffer within their property along Sauerkraut Rd to provide this vegetative buffering. if not trees, then a fence or low growing shrubbery like forsynthia
Broughaha March 11, 2013 at 01:07 AM
These suggestions all seem like better ideas than the current plan. I will concede that PPL has reason to remove the trees, but LMT must work with residents to make the inevitable hack-job less devastating. The township and PPl "should" help, but what can we do to make it actually happen?

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