The following is text from a memo by the Kumelewai Court AOAO regarding the removal of trees from its property:
To Whom It May Concern:
In 2013, after taking note of a number of tall pine trees either being removed or falling down along Meheula Parkway on the makai side of the H2 freeway, the Kumelewai Court Board of Directors voted to engage the services of a certified arborist to inspect the trees on the Kumelewai Court property. In September 2013, the Kumelewai Court AOAO received a detailed written report with the certified arborist’s findings.
The report dated September 25, 2013 included the following comments and recommendations with regard to the Cook pines:
The removal of four healthy and structurally sound Cook pines due to them “… growing in areas too narrow for this species” along Meheula Parkway. The concern was that “As the trees continue to grow over time, structural damage to the adjacent wall is likely to occur.”
“Consider long term replacement of the Cook Pines along Meheula Parkway.”
”Cook pines and other trees in the Araucaria genus are known to be attractive to Formosan subterranean termites. The termites can hollow out trees that appear to be healthy, leading to their structural failure. Because of their locations, generally uphill from Meheula Parkway, the most likely direction for a Cook pine to fall in case of failure would be into Meheula Parkway. This roadway is the major spine road for Mililani Mauka (one-way in, one-way out). As such, it has a high volume of traffic with an estimated occupancy rate over a 24-hour period of 25%-50%. During weekday daylight hours, the occupancy rate would be significantly higher, particularly during the morning rush hour.” (Bold, italics emphasis added)
“Please note that tree risk assessments by qualified assessors are performed as part of a management plan in an effort to identify defects and reduce risks. Most trees will not fail unexpectedly if properly managed; however, some trees will fail unexpectedly even if properly managed. Not all potential structure and stability concerns associated with trees can be eliminated. The benefits of trees should be considered in addition to the risks when making decisions about retaining trees.” (Bold, italics emphasis added)
Following is additional information from the report and obtained from independent research of Cook pine trees:
The trees in question are Cook pine trees, not Norfolk pine trees as they are commonly referred to.
Cook pine trees are not indigenous to Hawaii.
Cook pine trees can grow to 200’ tall with trunks up to 3’ in diameter.
Shortly after receiving the report, the KC BOD accepted the report and its recommendations. Solely in the interest of public safety, in December 2013, the KC BOD contracted for the recommended removal of the four trees mentioned in Item No. 1 and, because of the recommendation in Item No. 2 that long term replacement of all of the trees should be considered and the cautions noted in Item No.’s 3 and 4, also voted to fund the complete removal of all of the trees in calendar year 2014.
In addition to the concerns for the general public’s safety on Meheula Parkway based on the comments noted in the report, the KC BOD was as concerned about the safety of the residents of Kumelewai Court due to the fact that many of the residential units in the buildings with their backs along the fence facing Meheula Parkway were within 10’ to 20’ of these trees. If there was a severe windstorm or hurricane and the wind came from the southeast and the trees fell, they would fall on the residential units of Kumelewai Court.
At the time these decisions were made, it is estimated that the heights of the trees that were to be removed ranged from 60+’ to 120+’, most long enough so that if they fell, would cross all traffic lanes and both sidewalks on Meheula Parkway. If the trees were not removed and allowed to continue growing, as noted above, they could reach heights of up to 200’ with trunk diameters double what they are now thereby increasing the risk to public safety and potential damage if they fell. Based on the attached copies of Google Earth photos taken in 2007 and 2013 showing the different heights of the trees, one could estimate that the trees could reach the 200’ height in 10 years or less.
The Kumelewai Court AOAO is no different than any other homeowner association in Hawaii in that we have to manage our money wisely and be very selective in what we do with it after paying for the necessities and maintaining our property in the condition that is expected. In the case of the tree removal, the KC AOAO will have spent close to $50,000 for the report, the initial removal of the four trees in 2013 and the removal the remaining trees in 2015 without hesitation or reservation, to do anything else was not an option. If the KC BOD decided differently and the trees were not removed and just one fell either across Meheula Parkway or on top of one of our buildings, the KC BOD would have failed in its responsibilities to the owners and residents of Kumelewai Court and the general public.