Another resident, John Oppenheim, received a fine for similar violations that totaled $170,000, while several others have been hit with fines for tens of thousands of dollars.
But it was the Collards’ story — and their public relations battle against the city through print, radio and television news coverage — that made it a searing issue for the City Council.
Even after announcing that a hold on all tree-trimming fines had been put in place until the City Council could review possible changes to the tree ordinance, pressure to scrap the Collards’ fine altogether continued to mount.
At a Nov. 27 council meeting, City Atty. Scott Howard announced that his office would not pursue the fines against the couple, but by then, criticism of perceived inaction had clearly frustrated those on the dais.
The City Council had already scheduled a report on possible changes to the ordinance to prevent similar fines in the future for Dec. 18, but Councilman Frank Quintero insisted a report into how the Collard fine even happened be brought back sooner.
Howard presented the report to the council Dec. 11, along with several suggestions on how the ordinance might be modified to include more safeguards. At that meeting, the City Council dialed in on how staff members came to mail out the large fine, and conceded that the process was flawed and needed change.
A week later, the council voted to put off making any changes to the ordinance until city officials hold a series of town-hall-style meetings to solicit public input for what those changes should be. Staff members will likely return with a set of suggested times and places for those meetings in January.
City Council election stirs dais