CHICAGO (CBS) — A North Side homeowner enjoys his privacy, with tall trees along his property line, but his neighbors say the hedges are blocking their sunlight and even air, a dispute that continues to reach new heights.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory looks into allegations that the City of Chicago let the feud over landscaping linger.READ MORE: From Hotels To Retailers, Staffing Shortage Crisis Persists In Chicago -- And It's Affecting Customers
In peaceful Peterson Park, tensions are at an all-time-high over trees.
“They were leaning on the wall,” said Roula Savakis, pointing out of her second-floor window to her neighbor’s towering trees.
At least 15 feet tall, she shared pictures of the greenery stretching over her property line, in all sorts of seasons. She’s been bothered by the branches for several years.
“We can’t even see through. It’s just a border. We feel like we’re – it’s a jail,” said Savakis, who also said her neighbors make minimal efforts to maintain the landscaping along her gangway.
“She turned to me and said, ‘Well, they’re on your side. You do it,’” Savakis said of an interaction with her neighbor.
So Savakis took matters into her own hands a few months ago, hacking away some of the hedge. Now her neighbors are suing her for at least $100,000.
Asher and Cynthia Kohn accused Savakis of violating the state’s Wrongful Tree Cutting Act. They claimed she damaged 38 of their trees intentionally and illegally.
“They just trimmed the side of the tree that was basically trespassing onto their land,” said Savakis’s attorney, Dan Garbis. He said what his client did was within her right.
The Illinois Fence Act seems to indicate five feet is the maximum height for a hedge. The tree fence in question is undoubtedly much taller.READ MORE: Labor Shortage Blamed For Lack Of Headstone On Woman's Grave 8 Months After Her Death
“I believe that both sides would’ve been better served if the City was more proactive [through enforcement],” Garbis said.
The Kohns have never been fined, despite multiple city violations. Most recently, the Chicago Department of Buildings noted “growth is so thick and dense” and it’s “affecting light and ventilation.”
That inspection was more than a year ago.
“It is ridiculous that we’re dealing with this. This should not have gone so long,” Savakis said.
Or gone so far, you could argue.
CBS 2 first asked the Department of Buildings about overgrown trees in general.
“The Bureau of Forestry does not allow shrubs / bushes to be planted when they become a nuisance, the department either removes them or gives the owner a citation to remove,” a spokesperson said.
Chicago’s municipal code states a property owner needs to remedy the tree/shrub/plant situation causing a nuisance within 10 days of a violation. The city “may remove or cause to be removed the condition” if the homeowner fails to act, and that cost will be passed onto the homeowner.
So what happened in this particular case? The Department of Buildings reviewed it and confirmed to CBS 2 that the homeowner has not complied with past notices to remedy the violations. DOB added it can’t cut down a hedgerow on an occupied private property, but that it has referred the case to Chicago’s Law Department.MORE NEWS: City Leaders Hope New Campaign Will Boost Vaccination Rate, But Health Professionals Say It Will Take Time
The Kohns were not home when we stopped by. CBS2 requested a comment from their attorneys but never heard back.