Apr 27, 2023 - News

Des Moines targets dead trees, "acts of God"

Illustration of a snow globe filled with a windswept house and tree

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Inspectors would send notices to private property owners with dead and dangerous trees on their land under a plan being reviewed by the Des Moines City Council.

Why it matters: The notices would create a public record that could potentially hold owners liable, preventing them or their insurance carrier from claiming an "act of God" if the tree injures people or neighboring properties.

Catch up fast: The city is responsible for maintaining trees in public spaces but generally does not get involved with those on private properties.

  • Council members say they're sometimes unable to help people who believe their safety is being jeopardized by their neighbor's neglect.

Driving the news: The council directed city staff to draft a proposal responding to complaints this week.

  • Visual inspections would be done from public areas or from properties with the owner's permission.
  • Notices would not involve fines or require action, but final reports would be shared with the person who made the complaint.

Of note: Several council members additionally asked that inspection certificates for rental properties be contingent on the property's trees being safe.

What's next: A proposal will return for council approval in coming months, city manager Scott Sanders told council members.


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