Who cut down Luis Pacheco's trees?
During a routine visit to his family's property near the top of the hill in the Skyland neighborhood, Luis Pacheco discovered something strange on Feb. 17: A large-scale tree-cutting operation had been conducted on the site without his knowledge or permission.
Pacheco's family purchased the 17-acre parcel in the 1980s and added a private road with the intention of subdividing the property to build new housing at some point. But those plans never materialized, he says, and so far the family has left the space empty aside from the existing trees and the previous owner's single abandoned house.
Pacheco says he visits the property every two or three weeks to check on things and conduct maintenance, which is usually a quick process. But on that Saturday morning, he says, he was surprised to find that at least 33 trees had been cut down at some point after his previous visit.
A roughly 15,000-square-foot area at the southwest corner of the lot had been leveled, with all of the downed trees left lying on the ground. A section of Pacheco's fence along the edge of the area appears to have been pushed down, which Pacheco also says he first noticed on Feb. 17.
"I just don't know why anyone would think it's OK to do that," Pacheco says, adding that he reported the incident to Lake Oswego police and City officials.
LOPD Capt. Dale Jorgensen and City Code Enforcement Specialist Bill Youngblood both told The Review this week that the case is under investigation, but they declined to elaborate.
If the responsible party is discovered, Pacheco says, he hopes they can be compelled to pay for removing the downed trees, as well as for the cost of planting new trees to mitigate the damage.
The Skyland area is located in unincorporated Clackamas County just outside of Lake Oswego, but the Pacheco property is part of the city; the border of Lake Oswego aligns with the property's southern edge.
In Lake Oswego, a City-issued permit is required for the removal of any tree with a diameter greater than 6 inches that is not invasive, hazardous or unhealthy. Trees that are smaller than 15 inches in diameter require a "Type I" permit, which is limited to two per applicant per year.
Trees greater than 15 inches in diameter require a "Type II" permit, which has no annual limit but requires applicants to provide justification for the removal, such as for landscaping or development purposes, and to submit a replanting plan for mitigation.
According to City officials, no permit applications were submitted or approved for the Skyland cutting — and Pacheco says he certainly didn't put in any requests.
The downed trees are a range of sizes; Pacheco says the area included a mix of trees planted by his family and older trees that were already on the property when they bought it. Ring counts on the stumps indicate that some of the larger trees were at least 30 years old.
Pacheco says no one called or contacted him about removing the trees, which he says is frustrating because he would have been willing to talk about trimming trees if asked. He would not have agreed to removing the trees, though.
"Developers reach out to me all the time (to ask about selling the land)," he says. "If somebody wanted to contact me, they could have."
The size of the damaged area — along with all of the snow that fell last week — has made it difficult to get an accurate count of the number of trees that were cut down, Pacheco says, and he's still in the process of checking to see if any other trees were removed elsewhere on the property.
Pacheco says this is the first time he's had a problem with the property on this scale. There were a few incidents involving vandalism of the abandoned house, he says, but they ended years ago, so he hasn't needed to visit very frequently.
"Now I'm going to walk the property line every week," he says. "I think I have to, now."