Maples' demise sparks debate

While many people were focused on Christmas trees this week, Michelle Percy was thinking about the four mature maple trees that lined the street next to her village home.
Marie Havenga
Dec 26, 2013

She's stumped as to why the village cut them down last week.

“There was no warning whatsoever,” said Percy of 320 S. Lake Ave. “This was the handy work of the village that came in and did this with no notification. If you look at the stumps, there's no indication of disease or bugs. There are no power lines there. The power lines are across the street.”

Percy said she felt sick to her stomach when she saw the trees missing when she returned home from work last Tuesday. All that remains are four stumps, the largest about 2.5-feet in diameter.

“You come home and that's what you're confronted with,” said Percy, who works in Muskegon. “I noticed from a block away. I started to hyperventilate. It was just devastating to look at, absolutely devastating.”

Village officials say the trees were dropping large limbs and posed a threat to public safety. Percy said in the three years she's lived in the brick home at the corner of South Lake Avenue and Summer Street, she's never seen large branches down.

Village Manager Chris Burns and Public Works Director Roger Belknap said a former homeowner had asked that the trees be cut down and staff was unaware the property had changed hands.

“They were put on the removal list several years ago by the previous owner,” Burns said. “This year they rose to the level to be removed. This is one of those odd situations where the ownership changed and we were not aware of it. Regardless, the trees were dangerous and probably would have been removed either way.”

The Tribune tracked down two previous owners – Dan Vukcevich, who lived in the home immediately prior to Percy's purchase in 2010; and Pauline Pravda, who lived in the home for 64 years prior to Vukcevich. Both Pravda and Vukcevich said they had no issues with branches dropping during their tenure in the home and neither had requested that the trees be trimmed or cut down.

Quite the opposite, according to Vukcevich.

“I love trees,” he said. “I had no problems with those trees. It stinks that they cut them down.”

Pravda called it “stupid.”

Vukcevich said when the village cut down a tree immediately east of his property line about five years ago, he called to complain. History seems to have repeated itself.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.


Real estate maven

Too much government!! Apparently from Washington (which we all know) all the way down to the local level. The Village should make restitution for this in some meaningful way and conduct a real review of their procedures along the way.


Chris Burns, folks......


What is this chick's probem with trees?? she get bit by one as a child?


Stupid indeed! Someone should lose their job over this fiasco. This is serious. Good job Tribune for contacting the previous owners and getting to the bottom of this. Somebody screwed up big time! I hope that at the very least the stumps will be removed and some good sized maples or trees of her choosing will be planted as replacements. What a shame!


Chris Burns sounds like he needs a new job... and a new life...
great time to push bad decisions out of office!


Chris Burns is a woman.


So says you, how about we just say female and leave it at that?


High-Five, Pres....Next time I'll say that Chris Burns possesses two X chromosomes.


Send her back where she came from. Shame on the village. We don't butcher and destroy beauty here Ms. Burns. It takes years for those trees to grow. She has lied about trees since arriving here. What else is she lying about?


Chris Burns is apparently up to her crap again. She needs to be put out of her job. We need to save these mature trees, they are what give our neighborhoods character.

I have noticed many more trees through the village marked for removal.

The city needs to re-plant maple trees in this area ASAP at no expense to the homeowner, and NOT the little saplings that provide no shade and take 70-years to grow; plant something that is already a decent size. Crap like what SL did really ticks me off and it should be made right.


If events unfolded as the article states, this is a major screw-up, not to mention a flagrant abuse of Village resources. The Village Council ought to do some investigating, and if it means a re-assessment of Ms. Burns glowing annual review of a few months ago, so be it.


Looks to me like it's another "Lie of the Year" but on a local basis.


Yup, I'd have to agree with that! There seems to be multiple levels of "unaware"ness in this fiasco and somebody needs to fess up and quit the lying.

Not living in Spring Lake I can only watch, but if Spring Lake residents let this type of crap slide again this time then hold onto your hats in the future. You only get good government if you participate in it, otherwise you get what the crooks and the theives want you to have.......


Or a government "cut down" that accomplishes nothing while frittering away resources and eliciting even greater public disapproval.


The demise of the villages trees has been going on since Ryan Cotton was village manager. And it happened soon after a tragic accident on River St. in the village. Since then between the village and consumers power; I'am surprised there is a single tree still standing. The next Village Council meeting should be packed with people that feel the same way. And Ms. Burns -- you can fix this if you want to...


You are correct on all counts village1.


If this was just a continuation of Village policy (and I remember the very tragic accident) regarding tree removal, why wasn't it done in an official manner, with an announcement made in advance to the homeowner, stating when and why the trees were to be removed, and why does City Manager Burns now use the excuse of a homeowner complaint to justify the cutting down of the trees? Seems to me that the current excuse makes the Village look really bad, especially when none of the previous or current homeowners say they have ever filed a complaint with the city. Why didn't Chris Burns just say it was a matter of moving forward within the Village tree removal policy?


I sure hope this lady goes down to city hall to get her tax bill lowered as these nitwits with their chain saws have very effectively lowered the value of her homestead by removing these beautiful, mature maple trees that obviously, by the looks of that stump, were in no distress at all.

The expense of this debacle to the city wasn't cheap either I'd betcha....4 big trees cut down and chopped up / shredded and the area cleaned must of took the better part of a day for what, 4? 6? city employees? So you've got employee wages, fuel for the saws, shredders and the intangible costs of lying and creating another issue that could have simply been averted if ANYBODY in charge there had done their homework.

And I'm just curious, even though it's been established that it was a lie....why on earth does it take 3 years to get around to cutting down a tree? What is going on over there on that side of the river?? Don't any of these dim bulbs ever talk to each other? Wouldn't a reasonably intelligent person say "hmmm, maybe the situation has changed in the 3 years since we first got the (bogus) "call", maybe we should check in with the current home owner and see what's what? Heck, I get letters from the city fathers of Grand Haven everytime they're going to do something in my neighborhood, what's the problem over there on the other side of the river?

What happened to that 7 miles of smiles stuff I used to read about on the way back from GR??

Tri-cities realist

Apparently common sense has vacated that side of the river.


I thought B&B stood for bed and breakfast not Burns and Belnap from Cedar Springs!! They sure aren't for policy unless it's at their convenience time has shown over and again or for good use of Village resources. I can also tell that neither one really care about our rich Spring Lake history or better yet Tri-Cities. We have prided ourselves on getting along with one another and these two come across with a heavy hand and a smart mouth. Get off your high horses! I think the elected Village council better start listening to their constituents. Chris Burns acts like a bully and Belnap, her cohort, sounds just like her. I don't think that is the attitude we want in the Spring Lake Village. Bring it on down, do what anyone in the wrong would do...try to make it right. That starts with a change in your attitude. You screwed up on so many levels, again.

deuce liti

Little does chris burns know that you don't have to cut to down a maple tree to get maple syrup. She just can't stay away from battered breakfast foods.

I heard it was because of a thing she had for Mrs. Butterworth that went very bad.


"It was going to happen anyway." Tough! If you don't like it move. Hey, or better yet voice your concerns. Our Village Manager again is showing she doesn't give a darn what the citizens think. I can only think after her glowing review neither does our council. What else is going on? She, nor Belknap lifted a finger before the deed to check the status of a three year old never placed order. Shaking my head in utter disbelief!!


Wow....perhaps this is the biggest news story of 2013! It surely generated a lot of response. Tree huggers unite!


Oh come on people, some of these comments about the removal of trees and the Village Manager, get real, please lets get our priorities straight. I do love trees and yes this could have been done with more professionalism and the Village communicating with the property owner.
But some of these comments are extremely childish and basically rude, we live in a great community and we all should consider our blessings. We our better then this, are we not? Wish you all a very Happy Prosperous New Year and God Bless.

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