By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Money doesn’t grow on trees, but trees cost a lot of cash to remove. A Denver homeowner could soon spend thousands to remove trees damaged during the construction of her neighbor’s home. Lauren Collins has lived in her Washington Park home for years without a neighbor to the south. She was excited to see construction in the vacant lot on Downing Street in 2018.

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Her excitement turned to worry when she saw roots from her 100-year-old trees during excavation.

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“The first day they dug, the roots to our trees were exposed,” said Collins, “It was shocking to come home to a 10-foot high pile of dead roots, some the diameter of my leg and as long as two cars.”

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A month later, more excavation took place along the property line near the back of the lot, where another tree lives. Collins says their construction damaged a third tree, a 100-year-old Siberian Elm.

Collins took photos of the exposed roots. She didn’t realize how serious the damage was until months later.

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“In January, the trees started dripping sap profusely and the bark started breaking off in big chunks,” said Collins, “We’ve already seen some dead branches.”

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According to the report from arborist Bill Cassel, all three of Collins’ trees were impacted by construction and had structural damage. Cassel, a former City and County of Denver Forestry Department employee, recommends they be removed for safety purposes.

“The right windstorm can make these trees fall. We sleep in that upper loft. They’re a liability to our family now,” said Collins.

She reached out to the City of Denver to see if they could assist her, but learned the city isn’t responsible for trees on private property. City officials also informed her that she could be cited due to the hazard the trees are to the public sidewalk if they fell.

“We talked to several landscaping companies, some of them wouldn’t even touch them because of the structural damage,” Collins explained.

She was shocked to learn how much the removal of her three trees would cost.

“It’s about $15,000 to remove these trees. That’s not something that people have lying around,” said Collins.

Collins wrote a letter to the contractor, Dave Mann of Mann Builders, asking him to pay for the removal and replacement of her trees. Mann’s lawyer told Collins that Mann has no obligation to take any action in connection with the tree roots that encroached into the subsurface of the property.

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“He’s not liable. He’s sorry for the damage, but he’s not liable,” said Collins, “We’re looking for a resolution from the contractor. He’s not taking any responsibility.”

Mann told CBS4 he has no comment on the matter.

Collins’ new neighbors are not legally responsible for the damaged trees. They have the right to cut roots that extend over property lines.

“We now have a safety concern and a financial burden we have to deal with, but it should not be ours to carry,” said Collins.

Tori Mason

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