A Columbia couple is suing the city for more than $25,000 in damages, alleging the city cut down several mature trees that were outside utility right of way.
James and Susan Reynolds of 1301 Stonehaven Road allege that the city removed the trees from their property during the summer of 2017 and that the trees were beyond the boundaries of a 10-foot utility easement on the western fringe of their property.
The petition outlines counts amounting to common law trespass, statutory trespass and inverse condemnation.
“This is real estate they really cared about, and it was destroyed and taken without their consent and without compensation,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, Christopher Braddock, said.
The trees were within an approximate 40-foot area on the southeast corner of the property and removed for the purpose of maintaining utility lines, according to the petition.
The third count of the petition says that although the city has the power of eminent domain, it did not yield just compensation to the Reynolds.
The 5.41-acre property in the Highlands subdivision has an appraised value of $594,300, according to the Boone County Assessor’s Office.
State law says the plaintiffs are entitled to damages equivalent to three times the value of the affected property plus additional legal fees.
Braddock said he believes total damages will exceed $25,000. Factors that determine the cost include the value of the lumber as well as the change in the property’s value without the trees, he said.
The city denied the allegations in its response to the petition. Its attorney, Bradley Letterman, declined to comment.
The city did not “(exceed) the property line encumbered by the easement” or “cut trees and other vegetation not within the legal description of any recorded easement,” according to its reply.
The defendant’s “alleged actions were justified,” the reply says.
The city has until Oct. 31 to produce documents requested by the plaintiffs. No hearing has been scheduled.
Braddock doesn’t know of any other property owners affected by this case.