Tiny Tree Causing Big Confusion

Watauga city inspectors confused over city code

By Andrew Tanielian
|  Monday, Sep 17, 2012  |  Updated 8:16 PM CDT
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A Watauga homeowner is battling the city over a tree planted in the right-of-way after the city told him he could plant the tree there in the first place.

Andrew Tanielian, NBC 5 Reporter

A Watauga homeowner is battling the city over a tree planted in the right-of-way after the city told him he could plant the tree there in the first place.

A tiny tree in Watauga is causing a huge problem for one homeowner.

The city is telling Joseph Zappavigna that he must uproot a tree he and his kids planted after the city gave him permission to plant it six years ago.

Zappavigna's neighbor complained the Bur Oak was planted in the right-of-way back in 2007.

City inspectors went out and ruled in favor of Zappavigna.

Five years later, on May 30, the city cited Zappavigna for doing what he was told he could previously do.

Zappavigna told the city inspector writing the violation about how he had permission from the city.

"He came back the next day and apologized and said 'yes everything was in order,' asked me the type of tree and it was a tree that was allowed to be planted," said Zappavigna.

But last Thursday the same inspector returned saying the public works director said it had to come down because it was against code.

According to city code it looks like that's true.

So, the question becomes why are so many inspectors interpreting the city's code wrong?

Some have told him he can plant the tree. Others have told him his tree is covered under an exemption because it’s a Bur Oak.

When reading the code, it seems like no homeowners are allowed to plant trees in right-of-ways.

The code becomes even more confusing for businesses. First it states that no business can plant either, but then pages later names exemptions for certain types of trees.

It’s believed one city inspector mistook the business exemption for one pertaining to homeowners.

Zappavigna received a letter from the director of public works apologizing for the situation,  the confused city workers and for the fact that the issue should have been caught years ago by inspections.

The letter also said that the public works director, the city manager and mayor are all going to talk about options.

“I think it’s completely insane, all the attention that this tree is getting," said Zappavigna.

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