SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A couple in Scottsdale can’t get over the unsightly tree stump left in their backyard.
"I don't know how long palm trees take to grow, but that thing had to be out here for years," Blake Yennie and his fiancé, Lauren Padilla, loved the palm tree that used to stand in their backyard.
WATCH VIDEO: Palm tree removed is missed by homeowners
But to understand why they're upset over a stump, you have to go back 5 months ago when they initially bought their Scottsdale home.
“My fiancé really wanted a palm tree as part of our house selection," Padilla said. In fact, the palm tree in the couple's back yard is one of the reasons they bought the home. "Yeah, me and my realtor were walking around and we looked up and said ‘Wow, that's a very nice palm tree.’"
[SPECIAL SECTION: 3 On Your Side]
So, exactly what happened to that very nice palm tree? Well, pictures pretty much tell the story. Padilla says she took cell phone pics of workers from SRP in her backyard.
Padilla claims they had jumped into her backyard without permission and started trimming the palm tree. Within minutes, the workers went ahead and just lopped off the entire top of the tree, leaving the 30 foot skinny trunk standing.
Padilla, who was the only one home at the time says she was mortified. "So, you're inside your house and you have guys that jumped over your wall and into your backyard?” 3 On Your Side’s Gary Harper asked. "Yes,” she replied “And, they're cutting your tree down?” he asked. “Yes. With no warning. No warning!” she said. “Not even a door bell ring."
An SRP employee at the scene told Padilla that the tree was too close to their power lines, essentially giving them the right to trim the tree for safety reasons. At this point, Padilla started recording her conversation with her cell phone. "So, the whole tree has to come down and not just the branches?" she asked in disbelief. "Look, the palm tree is dead now. We've already cut the head off on top of it," the employee told her.
And with that, SRP went ahead and cut down the entire palm tree leaving that stump for the couple to remember the event. "I know if I had jumped someone's wall and cut their tree down, I'd be held responsible for that," Yennie said.
SRP told them that it had sent several warnings to their home last year indicating the tree needed to be trimmed because it was too close to power lines. But those warnings apparently went to the home's old owner, who never passed on that information to them when they bought the home just 5 months ago.
"We had no warning,” Padilla reiterated. “Our first contact (from SRP) was the tree coming down that day. That was our very first contact."
In an attempt pacify the couple, SRP offered them 2 five gallon bucket trees to plant themselves, along with a $500 credit to their electric bill.
So the couple contacted 3 On Your Side and we got a hold of SRP which maintains it did nothing wrong. In an email, an SRP spokesperson told us, "It’s unfortunate timing that the property changed ownership without our knowledge..."
As for entering the couple's backyard without reportedly asking, the spokesperson denied it, "The crew asked for permission to enter the yard." But Padilla says that's not true.
Regardless, after 3 On Your Side's involvement, the couple says SRP told them it would resolve the issue by issuing them a check for $3,900 for the misunderstanding and give them a $500 credit on their electric bill. In addition, the couple says SRP will also pay to have the stump removed.
Padilla and Yennie say they'll accept the offer. It’s an offer that they say only happened after 3 On Your Side got involved. "It just makes me wonder if this happens elsewhere,” Blake said.
SRP released the following statement to Arizona's Family:
The job was permitted last July at which time crews left a door hanger with information about the removal. SRP called and left a message with the homeowner in September and left a second door hanger in February. It’s unfortunate timing that the property changed ownership without our knowledge, and that the previous owner didn’t disclose the tree encroachment issue to the new owners.
The SRP contractor’s opinion notwithstanding, a Utility Forester and Certified Arborist had earlier determined that the tree needed to be removed to ensure safety and reliability. Because the tree was within three feet of a primary power line, it represented a fire hazard to the residents of house and jeopardized the reliability of our system for other customers in the neighborhood.
Regarding entry to the customers’ back yard, the contractors were stationed in the alley when the homeowner came outside and spoke to them. The crew asked for permission to enter the yard to move a glass table, and she gave them permission. At this point, the worker entered the yard over the block wall from the alley.
We were surprised to hear the customer didn’t let you know about SRP’s full offer. Blake reached out to SRP’s Consumer Affairs office after the incident and an Ombudsman was actively working with the couple to resolve the issue. A reasonable monetary offer to facilitate their planting a mature tree in their yard away from the power line was made a little over a week ago. Blake seemed to be in favor of the offer and was checking with his fiancé. The Ombudsman was confirming the offer within SRP, finalizing details and planned to contact Blake again this week.
SRP’s Vegetation Management team works year round to clear overhead power lines from customers’ encroaching vegetation over an area covering approximately 13,000 line miles. The department is responsible to ensure customer safety and reliable power for our more than 1 million customers while reducing any risk of fires caused by direct contact from vegetation with the overhead power lines.
While SRP can prune most trees to keep growth away from power lines, pruning is not possible with palms once they are within 10 feet of high-voltage lines. Unlike other trees, palms have a single growing point. Pruning too close to the single growing point or the heart of the palm can kill the palm. Therefore, when palm trees grow too close to high-voltage lines, SRP will remove them altogether.