Portsmouth woman stumped over tree controversy


by Janet Roach


Posted on August 20, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 2:28 PM

PORTSMOUTH -- 87-year-old Grace Lang is fighting with the city she loves. 

The longtime resident is the pastor of Community Chapel Methodist on Effingham Street in downtown Portsmouth and she owns some land in the 1600 block of Portsmouth Boulevard.  

Both sites have received numerous city code violations and warnings.

"They figure there's no other way but maybe worry me. I'm older now," says Lang.

Her latest fight is over a tree on the Portsmouth Blvd. site that the city cut down after inspectors said it was dead.  They said Lang didn't respond to notices, so they removed it and charged her $1,750. 

Lang argues the tree was very much alive and has the foot-long stump to prove it.

"I cut this off here so I could show that it won't nothing dead about this tree," she explains.

Lang says she works hard to keep up her property and can be seen painting or pulling up weeds.  She says she never did anything to a couple of trees that were on her property that she thought was OK.

Speaking at her church, Lang stated, "If I got sense enough to buy this and buy the other piece of property over there, I got sense enough to keep it up. My God!"

Permits and Inspections director Doug Smith says his department acted properly.  He says one of the trees was near a house and he would have a far more difficult time explaining why the tree wasn't cut down if it fell and injured someone during a storm.

Smith adds the city was just doing its job and gave Lang all the proper notices.

Some businesses near Lang's Effingham Street church say the inspections department vigorously enforces the codes. Several business owners have been cited for violations ranging from debris to weeds to peeling paint.

Lang is still waging a fight.  So far, she's managed to get the fine reduced to a $1,000.