The son of one of Raleigh’s most prominent developers is preparing to do legal battle with Duke Energy-Progress for a tree in his front yard.
John Kane Jr., founder of the sports company Race 13.1, refuses to let the utility company cut down a 44-foot willow at 1516 Brooks Ave.
The power company says the tree endangers the high-voltage power line that hangs about ten feet above it. Kane argues a simple trim should do the trick.
“It’s been very apparent … that it’s simply much more cost-effective for them to go down and chop a tree down at the stump,” said Kane, whose father is the developer of North Hills. “They apply these blanket standards everywhere.”
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The tree stands on Kane’s and his wife’s property, but Duke owns a right-of-way to that part of the land, giving the company certain rights to use and access the land around its 180,000-volt transmission line. The utility has filed a lawsuit that would force Kane to allow Duke onto his property to cut down the tree.
A Duke inspector discovered the troublesome tree in December. Duke makes a yearly effort to clear power lines before summer, when trees grow and power lines sag during heavy summer usage.
The willow reached within 10 feet of the line at inspection, and Duke claims that’s close enough for a sagging line to touch. As a policy, Duke considers cutting down any tree that could grow above 12 feet in height near its large lines.
The company also points also to its legal rights. A deed granted to the power company’s predecessor in 1911 allows the holder “the right to clear and keep cleared” a 50-foot swath of the right-of-way.
Kane has stymied the utility for months, asking that the tree be trimmed instead, he said. He also has refused to allow Duke to use his property as it cuts down a neighbor’s tree.
“I think that going on and chopping down trees at the stump … it’s a very unethical business practice, instead of taking the extra 15 or 20 minutes to consider trimming,” Kane said.
Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for Duke, said the company trims when it believes it can direct a tree’s growth away from a line.
“But when we're talking about a tree that's directly under the power line ... trimming isn't always the best option. It may require us to come back and trim it frequently,” he said.
In its lawsuit, Duke argues that Kane’s refusal “imperils the uninterrupted electrical service to thousands of customers.” The lawsuit also seeks to force Kane to pay legal costs.
Meanwhile, Kane has harsh words for former mayor Charles Meeker in relation to the battle of the tree.
Meeker is a partner at Parker Poe, the law firm arguing the case for Duke; he also has been an advocate for the preservation of trees.
Meeker is not directly involved in the case against Kane – the firm has 200 attorneys across five offices.
But Kane argues that the former mayor shouldn’t have anything to do with the lawsuit.
“As a partner and owner of the firm, I would think that he would be able to carry some weight,” Kane said.
For his part, Meeker said he didn’t know anything about the case.
“I don’t have any comments about the merit of the case,” he said. “I just don’t have any involvement with it.”
Kane planned to represent himself in court today.