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Trees Are a Threat
The mountain town of Canton is at an elevation of 6,000 feet. It is surrounded by thick underbrush and pine trees. Because of six years of drought, these plants are a major fire hazard. Thousands of trees and tons of underbrush are going to be removed over the next five years at a minimum cost of $3 million. The brush will be removed first, then the trees will be toppled and removed. A cleared nonflammable area will then safely surround the town of 4,000.
Residents look forward to the work, because it will help their town survive a future inferno. “But there are two problems,” said one resident. “All the extra trucks are going to make traffic pretty bad. Once the area is cleared, we have to make sure dirt bikers don’t try to make the cleared area their personal playground.”
A recent fire burned 4,000 acres and destroyed 11 homes in nearby Hamilton. The fire was raging toward Canton, but a sudden rainstorm put it out. Residents know that they won’t get lucky twice, so they are looking forward to this massive clearing operation.
Ninety percent of the cutting and clearing will be paid with federal funds. Unfortunately, if the trees are on private property, they must be paid for by the residents themselves. Prices can range as high as $1,000 to cut and remove one tree. Officials say that residents can apply for state and federal loans if necessary.
“Well, what good does that do me?” asked Thelma, a 65-year-old widow. “I’m living on social security. I’ve got four trees on my property. The government’s not going to loan me money when they know there’s no way I can pay it back. So what am I supposed to do? These planners with all their big ideas ought to think of the little people.”
Rentals at the Oceanside Community
The oceanside community of Lozano Beach is debating whether to allow homeowners to rent out their homes on a weekly basis during the summer. Such rentals produce high incomes for the owners and the city, which gets part of this income through a 15-percent surcharge to the owner. “This can be a boon to our coffers,” said Rick Brown, city manager. “In the summer, homeowners can bring in $2,000 a week or more.”
However, these rentals can also be a can of worms. The city stopped allowing weekly rentals 10 years ago because of the problems they were generating. Two, three, or even four families would pile into a two- or three-bedroom house. Then they would park their cars on the lawn and produce huge amounts of trash. Sometimes they would toss this trash on the streets and sidewalks.
Noise would be another problem. Some people would party late and loud every night. This abuse created a lot of friction with neighbors and resulted in extra work for city maintenance crews and for police, who had to respond almost hourly to residents’ complaints about noise, music, trash, and parking problems. But now, the city’s budget problems are making it reconsider its ban.
City officials will hold a community meeting next week to listen to the pros and cons. One official has already suggested a proposal. He thinks that a fine might work. If the city has to respond to complaints, the homeowner will be charged $200 per response. Such a fine might cause the homeowner to be careful to rent only to people that he is sure will be considerate of the neighbors. The city would still get 15 percent of the rental fee, even if the homeowner’s rent were totally offset by fines. The city would post inconsiderate renters’ names on the city website so that other homeowners would know about them.
Some officials think the ban should be continued because these visitors to the community have already proven that they have no consideration for others. Their money isn’t worth the headaches they cause.
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