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Elkhart christmas tree cut from property owners yard, city says it's in public right-of-way

NOW: Elkhart christmas tree cut from property owners yard, city says it’s in public right-of-way

ELKHART, Ind.-- The City of Elkhart Christmas tree is standing tall in preparation to be lit Friday for all to see but not everyone is happy on just how it got there.

An Elkhart property owner is upset that the City of Elkhart cut down the tree from the front of his home without notification. 

The 33-foot Blue Spruce tree you see in the video above was harvested from the front yard of an Elkhart property owner who says the City of Elkhart cut the tree down without his consent or knowledge. 

“We woke up in the middle of the morning and heard a bunch of noises and they were out here already cutting the tree down, and the city came and harvested it,” said Dennis Mormon. He is the current resident renting the space. His son is the property owner.

Residents are to maintain their property or risk a fine from the city. It was only after trimming the tree that they were notified. 

“He said we weren’t allowed to touch it because it was destined for the Christmas thing, and we didn’t know anything about it. We’d trimmed the tree because it was overlapping the sidewalk and we couldn’t see the stop sign,” said Mormon.

It's for those reasons, lack of visibility and blocking the sidewalk, that the previous owner submitted a service request to have the tree removed. 

“We had the tree on city property that the homeowner had been asking to get removed.  We decided to use that tree instead of purchasing a tree," said Mike Lightner, department head of Elkhart Buildings and Grounds Department.

The request was put in over a year ago and before the new homeowner purchased the home. Fulfilling the request without knowing that the property was under new ownership is an important factor that they said might've been overlooked.

When asked if he believed all the bases were covered before digging up the tree, Lightner said, “I’m not sure that all of them were but we’ll look into this. If something wasn’t done right it will be in the future."

At the end of the day, trees in the public right-of-way are owned and maintained by the city, however, anytime a homeowner feels the city has damaged their private property, the claim is investigated.

In the meantime, the family is choosing to look on the bright side.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that a lot of people will be able to enjoy it. Not just the kids but the parents and grandparents and everything like that too,” said Mormon. 

The current property owner has begun the claim process and investigation.

You can catch the tree lighting this Friday, December 7th, at the Elkhart Civic Plaza. 

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