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Dear PoP – My Neighbor’s Adult Son Killed a Tree, What Do I Do Now?

by Prince Of Petworth April 18, 2011 at 10:22 pm 131 Comments

“Dear PoP,

I’ve got a bit of a neighbor dilemma, and am hoping your readers should shed some light on the situation.

I live next to two elderly ladies — we have a cordial relationship that I would like to maintain. Their son (let’s call him Sam) visits every couple of weeks and tends to things around the house. We also have a good relationship. Last year when the city went around and planted trees, a tree was placed in the tree box in front of their house. A few weeks later, I noticed the top of the tree had been cut off (effectively killing it.) Another one of my neighbors (no longer lives on the block) mentioned Sam had killed the tree. I was perhaps a bit peeved, but no big deal I suppose.

Now this year roles around and the city once again plants a tree in the tree box in front of my neighbors’ house. Yesterday I am in my back yard gardening and Sam mentions that he plans on killing off the tree. He notes that he generally hates trees and is convinced that the tree will eventually damage the water intake pipes to the house. I uneasily suggest that he should not do this. But. admittedly, I don’t press him. Today I am leaving for work and find he has once again decapitated a city planted tree (see picture attached.)

What should I do? Should I do anything? Who would technically enforce this type of violation? I have had disappointing experiences with the DC Department of Forestry in the past, so I’m not sure they would be of any help. I’m not sure talking to him will do much good, if he is convinced that this tree was going to be ruinous for his future inheritance. Also, if I do ‘tattle’ I am certain he will know it is me. Is it worth it to kill this relationship over a tree?”

It’s very rare that I’m speechless after receiving an email – but I am stone cold speechless. I am genuinely eager to see what others think because quite frankly I’m unable to give helpful advice that is not skewed by the emotions I have after seeing the above photo. For those who give advice – obviously there is an emotional reaction – but try to keep in mind that the reader needs to maintain neighborly relations. Keeping that in mind – what would you do in this situation?

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