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TOWN OF GENEVA -- A utility company finished clearing trees along a power line route in Geneva Township before town officials had a chance to stop them in court.

Instead, the town issued citations to American Transmission Company for violating ordinance No. 58. The ordinance says a building permit from the town's building inspector is required before removing any trees or brush and prohibits "clear-cutting" trees.

Read more at Gazettextra.com HERE

http://www.gazettextra.com/20161201/town_of_geneva_drops_lawsuit_against_transmission_company_issues_citations_instead

The town filed the suit Oct. 28, 2016, and was going to ask a Walworth County judge to issue a temporary restraining order Nov. 21, 2016, but that hearing was cancelled, according to town attorney Richard Torhorst.

ATC maintains it was never "clear-cutting" the trees, according to an affidavit from Joe Benzschawel, an ATC Vegetation Management Specialist. An ATC Spokeswoman, Jackie Olson, previously said in an email to The Gazette that ATC told local officials "on several occasions" the company believes the local ordinance does not apply to public utilities.

"ATC will not be able to achieve clearances necessary to assure safety and reliability if stopped from performing tree trimming and removals on the X-55 transmission line," Benzschawel wrote. "The close proximity of trees to the X-55 line puts the public, including landowners and non-certified tree workers, at risk of electrocution should they touch such a tree."

Part of ATC's X-55 line, the power line in question, runs north along County Highway H from County NN, then along Palmer Road to Wisconsin Highway 67. The X-55 line is also located in Elkhorn and the town of Delavan.

Walworth County Judge Daniel Johnson ruled Oct. 13 that ATC could trim or remove trees near the Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital. The ruling came in a case filed in June by Fellow Mortals, owned by Yvonne and Steven Blane, in an attempt to block the tree cutting, saying the removal would harm injured animals.

The citations against ATC will be held before a municipal court judgement, Torhorst said.

Because ATC filed a request for substitution of judge with the town of Geneva Municipal Court, the date the citations will be reviewed is not yet known, Torhorst said.

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- A utility company finished clearing trees along a power line route in Geneva Township before town officials had a chance to stop them in court.

Instead, the town issued citations to American Transmission Company for violating ordinance No. 58. The ordinance says a building permit from the town's building inspector is required before removing any trees or brush and prohibits "clear-cutting" trees.

ELKHORN -- American Transmission Company faces another lawsuit aimed at preventing the company from cutting trees in Geneva Township

An emergency motion for a temporary restraining order will be heard in Walworth County Court at 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, 2016.

In October, Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital, owned by Yvonne and Steven Blane, filed suit to stop the utility from clear cutting a row of trees that protects the property.

ATC owns a utility easement for a power line at Fellow Mortals. ATC attorneys argued the company needed to trim or remove multiple trees to increase safety and service reliability.

However, Walworth County Judge Daniel Johnson ruled Oct. 13, 2016, that ATC could trim or remove trees near the Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital.

Since then, crews have been clearing trees along along the powerline route on Palmer Road. Property owners have expressed concern to the town board about the extent of the trimming.

The township lawsuit asks that ATC stop “cutting, trimming, removing or otherwise destroying any vegetation” along the ATC power line in the town of Geneva, according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 11. The main area in question is for an ATC line that runs from the intersection of County NN and Highway 12 to Palmer Road at Highway 67.

Town of Geneva Police Chief Steven Hurley wrote in an affidavit filed with the town's lawsuit that the town has issued citations to ATC for violating a town ordinance regulating tree removal. ATC refuses to comply, according to his affidavit.

The ordinance, No. 58, says a building permit from the town of Geneva building inspector is required before removing any trees or brush and prohibits clear-cutting trees with some exceptions, which still must be submitted to the building inspector.

Jackie Olson, an ATC spokeswoman, said in an email to The Gazette that ATC told local officials “on several occasions” the company believes the local ordinance does not apply to public utilities.

A letter from an ATC attorney to the town reads: “The (recent) court ruling (affirms) that ATC has the right to trim and remove trees within the area covered by ATC's easement."

In the same letter, the attorney wrote ATC “will not be 'clear cutting' properties, but rather trimming some trees and removing incompatible ones within our easement strip to keep our lines safe and reliable.”

ATC did not end up needing to remove vegetation from the entire easement width on the Blanes' property, so some vegetation will remain intact, according to the letter.

Olson said they would have no further comment because the lawsuit is still pending. Richard Torhorst, the attorney representing the town of Geneva, could not be reached for comment.

TOWN OF GENEVA -- Founders of a nonprofit group that takes care of injured and orphaned animals are worried about providing security for their animals if a company goes through with plans for cutting down trees near the property.

American Transmission Co. plans to clear trees and undergrowth in an easement within Fellow Mortals Inc., W4632 Palmer Road. ATC owns a 7.8-mile transmission between Elkhorn and Lake Geneva that includes an easement near Fellow Mortals.

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