January 2, 2005
George Butchko’s time is almost up.
Scottsdale code inspectors have given him until Monday to remove a tree stump from his yard, causing indignation in some of his neighbors and satisfaction in others.
The 80-year- old south Scottsdale resident said he shouldn’t have to remove the stump because of its artistic value. He paints it every month to reflect holidays such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Halloween.
The two-foot stump currently is painted white with green Christmas trees on the top half; on the lower half, there are polka dots and the letters "HNY" for "Happy New Year."
"I consider it stump art," Butchko said. Everybody comes by and asks me, ‘What are you going to do with it next?’ "
Code inspector Doug Flask said if Butchko does not remove the stump, he faces a citation.
"Let’s say there’s a junk vehicle with flat tires or expired tags parked in a visible area and someone decides to paint it purple with polka dots and considers it art. It’s still a junk car," Flask said. "A junk car is a junk car and a dead tree is a dead tree."
Dead trees and stumps are a violation of city code and must be removed, he said. Some of Butchko’s neighbors, however, said the stump should stay.
"It’s not gaudy and it’s not rowdy," said Patrice Whalen, a 47-year-old science teacher at St. John Bosco School in Phoenix.
In a recent letter to City Manager Jan Dolan and Deputy City Manager Ed Gawf, Whalen complained about the city’s warning to Butchko, saying the stump was a neighborhood icon.
Whalen said she never received a response from Dolan or Gawf. Calls made by the Tribune to both officials were not returned.
However, Whalen said more than the city is to blame for the threat to the stump.
She said neighbor Jim Heather, a 71-year-old crossing guard for Scottsdale Unified School District, has been complaining to the city about the stump and other issues.
Heather, who serves on the Neighborhood Enhancement Committee, said he has never filed a formal complaint but that he did ask code inspectors to visit his neighborhood.
"It’s an old neighborhood and the city code has not been lived up to for a number of years," he said. "But now the area is starting to look good, in all honesty."
Malcolm Hankins, the city’s code enforcement manager, said if Butchko does not remove the stump the property will be inspected again and Hankins will "handle it as it comes."
Butchko said he has no plans to remove the stump by the Monday deadline.