As the emerald ash borer decimates the city's ash tree population, Des Plaines aldermen have rejected an ordinance proposal that would have allowed city staff members to inspect -- and possibly remove at the owner's expense -- trees on private property infected by the invasive beetle.
"To me, this whole ordinance is almost redundant or superfluous to even have on the books," said 7th Ward Ald. Joanna Sojka at Monday night's City Council meeting.
Sojka and four other aldermen voted against the proposal, which will appear for a final vote at the next City Council meeting in October.
"We already have something," she said of other city ordinances that call for the removal of dead or dying trees on private property. "The only difference is this says we would be able to collect money."
The proposal mirrors a similar ordinance involving elm trees infected with Dutch elm disease.
In the case of ash trees, the ordinance would have allowed designated city staff members to go onto private property and inspect the trees. The city could then order the removal of any ash tree infected by the ash borer beetle.
Like the elm tree provision, the proposed ordinance would have allowed the city to remove an infected ash tree and bill the owner for the removal -- plus a possible fine or penalty -- which, if unpaid, would have resulted in a lien on the property.
City Manager Michael Bartholomew said the city's existing ordinances allow for most of the provisions of the ash tree proposal.
"This gives us the ability to place a lien for an ash tree," he said. "If not, and still an ash tree, we would ask to remove it and go through the process. We just wouldn't recover our cost. That's really the main difference here."
An estimated 3,000 ash trees could exist on private property, according to Tim Oakley, director of public works and engineering.
A similar number once existed on public property, Oakley said, but that total has steadily declined as the beetle has taken hold in Des Plaines and elsewhere.
"I see this as a way where we have some teeth in the ordinance," said Ald. Michael Charewicz, 8th. "We're able to put a lien on the property and get reimbursed, should that be necessary."
Signs of infestation from the ash borer -- which is native to Asia -- first appeared to North American ash trees in June of 2002 in southeast Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, in Canada, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Four years later, the ash borer first surfaced in ash trees in Kane County, the IDOA reports.
In the years since, the ash borer has begun to decimate ash trees across the Chicago area, and has forced communities from Wilmette to Mokena to start removing huge swaths of their ash tree inventories.
If left unchecked, the beetle could eradicate ash trees in North America, the state department of agriculture warns.
The beetle's attack on ash trees occurs throughout the insect's life cycle, with the most damage done when larvae feed on the tree's inner bark, preventing the transportation of water and nutrients in the tree.
Evidence of an infected ash tree includes thinning leaves at the canopy, or increased damage by woodpeckers -- which feed on emerald ash borer larvae.
Efforts to treat ash trees instead of removing them include strategies that range from introducing parasitic wasps to using pesticides, with mixed results reported.
Some Des Plaines aldermen said they were put off by the notion of city staff members entering private property and possibly placing liens on homes.
"I was alarmed when I first saw this ordinance," said Ald. Jim Brookman, 5th. "It could cause a real hardship for homeowners who may have multiple trees on their property. To me, what's proposed is hostile to residents."