Tree tantrums in Edmonds

She decided to cut back her corkscrew willow – hubbub ensued
By Brian Soergel | Feb 15, 2018
Photo by: Brian Soergel Katherine Stojkovic and her cut-back corkscrew willow tree. Neighbors and passers-by have not been afraid to express their opinions on it.

So this is the lady who has caused so much consternation in Edmonds over the years.

Katherine Stojkovic is a diminutive woman with closely cropped, short white hair. Her lean and solid figure is testament to years sweating through CrossFit training.

“Look at the mountains,” she said on Monday with an engaging smile, pointing to the snowy Olympics, majestic over the Public Safety Complex. It’s the view from her house on Seventh Avenue North and Edmonds Street, across from Civic Field.

Stojkovic looks tiny in front of her 3,800-square-foot home – anyone would be, really – as it’s a modern, upscale neighbor to mostly older homes, a few showing their wear from time.

I met Stojkovic after she fired off a letter to the Beacon over the weekend that she titled “Get the story before you speak!” In it, she expressed dismay at passers-by who criticized her after she hired an arborist to cut back a very large and very visible corkscrew willow tree in front of her house.

“People have been stopping in their cars and making comments,” she wrote. Not the nice kind. “Some are just looking at us, shaking their heads, and some are just plain mean.”

For Stojkovic, the comments brought back ugly memories from a not-too-distant past, when she and her husband decided to build their dream home.

Rooted in Edmonds

Katherine and Nick Stojkovic have lived in Edmonds for years, first in a house in the same block on Seventh Avenue. While there, they rented out a small bungalow sitting on three city lots, where the current house now stands.

A decade ago, the Stojkovics decided on a move to Bellevue, where they purchased a midcentury home and spiffed up the garden so elegantly it was featured in a glossy design and lifestyle magazine.

But the couple, both now 64, soon realized they wanted to retire back in Edmonds. Katherine Stojkovic retired from Premera Blue Cross after 32 years, and Nick Stojkovic from Verizon after 33.

Soon, however, they realized the bungalow wouldn’t fit into their plan – it would cost more than $100,000 to upgrade and was too cramped to include Nick’s mother, who today is 90, and other family members.

So the Stojkovics envisioned a grand post-and-beam home, one that plants large poles buried in a foundation to provide vertical structural support and girts to provide horizontal support. It would save money and allow the family to erect walls wherever they wanted or, if the time was right, to tear them down to provide more free-flowing access to living spaces.

Shortly after workers drove in the first poles, neighbors, drivers and walkers let the Stojkovics have it. Derisive comments were the norm.

“Of course, it looked odd at first,” Katherine Stojkovic said. “That’s when people started writing the first batch of letters to the Beacon.”

One particular letter, in February 2012, came from the next-door neighbor, who questioned why the city would allow such a large home on the site. “The letter caused an uproar in Edmonds,” Stojkovic said.

“People would stop in the middle of the street and yell, ‘We hate your house’ while we were sitting on the deck when it wasn’t done yet. It was crazy. We even had to call the police a couple of times.

“For a few months, people were walking on the property, a few saying that we shouldn’t build the house this close to the neighbor. They thought she lived in the bungalow on the property that we lived in while the house was being built.”

Stojkovic fired off her own missive to the Beacon: “We have had many compliments from the neighbors who feel our home will be an asset to the various styles in this neighborhood,” she wrote. “(The neighbor) and others have never asked to see the plans or know what the finished home will look like.”

When the house was completed, Stojkovic said she started hearing compliments. Even the neighbor who wrote to the Beacon came around, she said. “We had a birthday party for my mother-in-law and invited her. She apologized, and said she loved the house.

“People like it. They’ve asked about the fence material, and like the aesthetic. I think perhaps it’s newer people moving to Edmonds.”

All was calm. Then, recently, the Stojkovics decided to do something about the large tree overtaking their front yard.

It was deja vu all over again.

A massive willow

The corkscrew willow is a fast-growing tree.

Several years ago, a neighbor approached Stojkovic and asked if she would want one on her property. She even said she’d provide upkeep.

“But she didn’t keep up with it,” Stojkovic said. “It was easy to maintain at the beginning. I had it trimmed down three years ago, but two years later it was just massive.

“We didn’t want to to take it down – it’s just beautiful, stunning. But it interfered with the power lines and blocked every bit of sun from coming through the house.”

Stojkovic decided that taking care of the tree was too big a project for the family. She hired an arborist, who told them he would cut it back without cutting it down, as the Stojkovics requested.

So it happened. Over this past weekend, the tree’s branches were summarily sawed off, and the tree reduced to a few stumps. And, like when the house was being built, Edmonds residents weren’t afraid to speak their minds directly to the homeowners.

“What a monstrosity, one person told me,” Stojkovic said. “Why would you do that to a tree? There’s a lot of energy around what people do with trees.”

Once again, she said, most passers-by didn’t grasp the whole story.

“The arbortist shaped it, and it will grow back and look more like a Japanese maple. It’ll look like a sculpture. But I’ll make sure it doesn’t go over 6 or 7 feet this time. It won’t intrude on the telephone lines, it will let the sun in, and the leaves won’t clog up the grates.”

Stojkovic said she and her husband love Edmonds, and they love their neighborhood.

“This is where we retired,” she said. “We want to be good neighbors.”

Still, as you might have guessed, Stojkovic is not afraid to speak her mind. She’s got her own beef with the new “McMansions” staring down the Frances Anderson Center on Main Street.

But that’s probably another story.


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