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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | SADDLEBACK/SOUTH
BEACH: DANA POINT

Trees Get Stay of Execution--for Now

May 16, 1998|LESLEY WRIGHT

First they were hacked at, dragged off and left for mulch and firewood. Then they became the subject of a bitter court fight.

But early next week, the 750 remaining eucalyptus trees that live on the hills of the Dana Woods community will leave the adversarial atmosphere of Superior Court for the more soothing tables of mediation.

Once there, some of Orange County's best-known arborists will debate the ups and downs of the eucalyptus and, attorneys hope, heal a wounded community.

An agreement reached late Thursday modified a temporary court order preventing the Dana Woods Homeowners Assn. from cutting down eucalyptus trees and replacing them with sturdier varieties.

The association directors, named in a lawsuit filed by some homeowners, had ordered the trees to be felled last month, saying falling branches were a hazard that threatened the community's insurance.

About 200 trees were removed before distraught neighbors won a temporary restraining order April 30.

Under the new plan, there is still a 60-day moratorium on tree-cutting, except for those that had already toppled during storms.

During that time, a management plan for the trees will be considered by the tree experts, said Tom Davis, attorney for residents Paul and Susan Davis.

The agreement also means that the individual directors will be dropped from the lawsuit, Davis said.

"We will address any trees of concern and hopefully mediate a settlement," he added.

"We're very happy. We think this will give the true tree experts a chance to come up with a plan to make most people in the neighborhood happy."

The arrangement is expected to be formally approved Monday in Orange County Superior Court.

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