Tree care

Often assumed to be the city’s responsibility, trees planted within the public right-of-way (between the curb and sidewalk) are to be maintained by homeowners, per the city’s municipal code.

At any given point in time, Director of Public Works Robert Mendoza noted there are 200-300 municipal code cases around Derby that his department is addressing.

Typically, the most notable code violations in regards to property maintenance issues relate to tall weeds/grass and debris or vehicles left on a property, but one that sometimes gets forgotten is public right-of-way maintenance.

Over the course of the year, Mendoza noted Public Works will get upwards of 100 calls from throughout Derby regarding overgrown trees in the right-of-way impeding traffic – pedestrian or otherwise. It is up to the homeowner to address those issues as they are presented.

“We get those calls on a regular basis, and I think a lot of of people believe that ‘it’s a tree close to a curb, therefore it’s the city’s [responsibility],’ but that’s not the ordinance,” Mendoza said. “As trees and bushes grow into the street, it forces traffic over into the other lanes. When you’re driving down the street and you see a shrub that’s coming to your right, even though you probably know it’s not going to hit you, you tend to move over. These low-hanging tree branches, bushes and shrubs, they do impact the flow of traffic.”

Part of Derby’s “community forest,” Mendoza noted property owners are a key part of the team when it comes to caring for and maintaining trees around the community, as several line the streets in neighborhoods throughout Derby. Per the municipal code, trees planted between the curb and the sidewalk (along the street) fall in the public right-of-way and are therefore the responsibility of homeowners.

Not only does regular maintenance help the city – preventing damage to vehicles, trees and debris in the streets – but Mendoza pointed out that trees not properly cared for can become an issue for homeowners themselves.

“Any time tree branches are rubbing against your roof shingles, they’re causing damage. Anytime branches are hanging into your gutters, it’s causing you problems,” Mendoza said. “There’s benefits at every level of landscape maintenance.”

Responsibilities of homeowners to maintain trees properly include pruning branches to 8 feet above sidewalks and 12 feet above streets, trimming trees/shrubs so both sight lines and pathways are clear, and removing hazardous and/or dead trees and branches to promote proper growth.

Either the homeowner or a licensed arborist can be approved for the work, per the code, as Mendoza pointed out the city wants to make sure those trees are receiving the proper care.

“It’s kind of like cutting bangs. You don’t want to cut too much,” Mendoza said. “You want to make sure you’re doing it well.”

Derby has two arborists on staff to handle similar duties managing trees and landscaping at public facilities, parks and along major arterial streets – all to maintain safe pathways. Mendoza noted it is a year-long job in some cases, but the city will often handle tree maintenance at least twice a year – in the spring and in the fall.

On top of homeowners needing to be aware of right-of-way maintenance, the city has a number of recommendations to consider when planting trees as well. In viewing the “community forest” as a partnership, species and positioning are among the key factors to consider when homeowners are planting – being asked to think about what’s best for both the city and their home.

“We’re looking at potential traffic hazards. We’re looking at potential property hazards, and we’re looking at the lifespan of the tree you’re going to plant,” Mendoza said. “It really is important that people look at these trees as an asset, a valuable asset, to their property.”

For more on right-of-way maintenance responsibilities, visit or call 788-0301.

Kelly Breckunitch is the managing editor for the Derby Informer. Contact him at for questions and news tips. 


Managing Editor

Kelly Breckunitch is the managing editor for the Derby Informer. Contact him at for questions and news tips.

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