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Homeowners in northwest Omaha upset over tree canopy in jeopardy

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 10:28 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As housing developments crop up northwest of Omaha, traffic will increase on an already busy two-lane road. A widening project on State Street has some homeowners upset about the cost but not in money.

A tree canopy that shades State Street next to the Ledent property also provides bright moments.

“Many people come up here and have graduation pictures taken. Wedding pictures,” said homeowner Sharon Ledent.

But the public right-of-way markers appeared last week for a project to widen State Street six feet on each side with a middle turn. Add to that a shoulder and drainage ditch, numerous trees must be removed.

“But to come in here and just level things that to me is well beyond an easement or right of way gives you a right to do,” said homeowner Larry Ledent.

The land on the northside replated under a previous owner 15 years ago so the county has 75 feet of right away.

“When it comes to a road project and we don’t cut those trees down and don’t do our due diligence in regard to the policies, we could be held accountable if someone was injured out there,” said Douglas County Engineering Manager, Dan Kutilek.

Across State Street, another property owner will see eleven trees removed from the public right of way in front of his house.

“You can see the damage. Almost every tree down there has damage from being hit by a car so when these are gone what’s going to protect our house,” said homeowner Kurt Kuhlman.

The four homeowners that live along this section of State Street cherish the shade. But they say more light needs to shine on this widening project that will cause the removal of so many mature trees.

Three homeowners say flags and stakes are the first they knew of the project’s extent.

“It’s a huge impact, and it’s for a long duration of time so it would be nice if someone would come out and explain to us what’s going on,” said homeowner Chad Brocker.

“Legally, we have the authority to take and trim and do whatever needs to be done in the public right of way without informing the property owners,” said Kutilek.

But with a picturesque setting about to dramatically change, homeowners would like county engineers to paint them a picture.

“Face to face, tell us what you are doing and why do we have to lose the trees,” said Sharon.

The project includes shaving down a hill so drivers pulling out of a new subdivision have a better line of sight. That will close State Street from about 171st to 177th for approximately three months.

The county and developers are sharing the $1.3 million cost.

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