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Mukwonago plans to sue resident over cottonwood tree

Andrea Budde

Oct. 18, 2011

A single cottonwood tree is the center of a battle between neighbors who hate the messy tree, the Village of Mukwonago, which is trying to uphold an ordinance through a lawsuit, and the tree's owner, who just wants to enjoy his century-old tree.

His own backyard

The cottonwood tree can be found along McDivitt Lane in the yard of Paul Teply, who has lived at the residence for the past 22 years. Teply claims the tree is among the top 10 oldest cottonwoods in state.

He explained that for two weeks each year, from late May through early June, female cottonwood trees shed white "fluff." In Teply's case, this fluff lands in the neighbor's pool, which has caused the upset neighbors to complain to village police and officials.

But Teply thinks that two weeks of having to skimming a pool does not warrant cutting down the tree.

"I am not cutting that tree down just because the neighbor gets fuzz in the pool," he said.

The tree has added benefits, Teply said. The cottonwood shades his house for six to seven hours a day during the summer and serves as a wind block during gusty days. He added that the tree drinks 200 gallons of water per day from an underground stream. Teply reported that a neighbor complains about having to run two sump pumps all the time, but if the tree is cut down, there will be even more water to pump.

"I don't want to lose my tree," Teply said. "I'll go to the Supreme Court with this."

Upholding the law

The village has an ordinance stating that "no person shall plant or maintain within the village any female tree of the species Populus Deltoides, commonly called the cottonwood, or any tree commonly called the seed-bearing box elder or acer negundo, which may now or hereafter become infested with box elder bugs. Such trees are hereby declared a nuisance. Any person having any such trees on his premises shall cause the same to be removed. If any owner shall fail to remove any such tree within 30 days after receiving written notice from the village forester, the forester shall cause the removal of such tree and report the full cost thereof to the village clerk, who shall place such charge upon the next tax roll as a special charge against the premises."

Village Clerk Paul Moderacki reported that several neighbors have complained about the mess Teply's cottonwood makes. Complaints include the fuzz getting into pools, AC units and people's yards. Moderacki noted that the village doesn't take any action on cottonwood trees unless there are complaints from residents.

Teply was hand delivered a 30-day written notice on Aug. 9 to remove his tree or he would be sued by the village. Village Attorney Shawn Reilly said that Teply refuses to cut down the tree.

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