Unauthorized landscaping placed along Highway 49 in Auburn by local businesses may be allowed to stay, pending the approval of an encroachment permit, according to Caltrans.
The owner of Auburn Extreme Powersports installed trees and plants to enhance the busy roadway on what he thought was his land. Later, he said a Caltrans employee told him that it looked nice but, since it was on state property, it would have to be torn out.
“I asked him, ‘What can we do?’ And he said, ‘Nothing, you just have to take it away,’ Jeff Barbarick said. “Seems kind of crazy because all we want to do is make things nicer.”
Barbarick said he was tired of the weeds and trash along the road outside his business.
“It reflects bad on our community to have it look like this,” Barbarick said.
Two doors down, Michael Klemp, the owner of a used car business, said he had a landscape architect design 150 feet of landscaping along Highway 29. His property is apparently overseen by the City of Auburn, but he also ran afoul of Caltrans.
“They had said I needed to go to the City of Auburn for a permit and that if the City of Auburn said it was O.K., they would say it was O.K.,” said Klemp, owner of Automotion.
Residents that FOX40 News spoke with couldn’t understand why the landscaping couldn’t remain.
“I love it, I think it’s beautiful. They’ve done it voluntarily on their own, they spent their own money, it’s beautiful. What’s the problem?” said Katrina Bilbao, who owns a restaurant on the highway.
Klemp believes that business owners should be able to enhance the area.
“This is the entryway into Auburn and the businesses need to set a good example as to what’s going on for the community and the tourists as well,” said Klemp.
Caltrans spokesperson Rochelle Jenkins said they actually love the fact that businesses are being proactive. They just want to be notified through the permitting process. She said they were concerned about safety signage that was not used and that put landscapers in danger on the busy roadway.
“That really scares us when people do work near the road,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins also said certain types of trees can mature with large trunks that can be dangerous to motorists in accidents, and there could be pipes or wires underneath to landscape areas. Caltrans is also ultimately responsible for maintaining landscaping and watering it not matter who put it in. She said Klemp could face similar issues if he deals with the City of Auburn.
She said an encroachment permit, if approved, would allow businesses to retain the landscaping that has already been put in if they are approved. Jenkins said there probably won’t be a problem with plants put in by Barbarick.
She also said noone should have been told that there was no alternative but to tear out the landscaping. They are trying to identify the employee who talked with Barbarick to determine exactly what was said.
Barberick filed an encroachment permit yesterday.
“I should have talked to Catrans first, my bad but we want to work with them and hopefully make it happen,” said Barberick.