Monday, April 9, 2007
Help Me Howard: Trees Cut Down
Was your house damaged by a storm? Odds are if you live in South Florida the answer is probably 'Yes.' Now what about your yard, your trees? If so, watch out because if codes were enforced across South Florida, you could lose many of your trees, which one South Florida group is finding out the hard way. That's why they are calling Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- From the air it looks like one of those advertisements for the good life in South Florida.
From the ground it is a lake, wild birds, lazy ducks and, of course, lots of trees.
Brenda Chapman: "The trees were just fantastic, old, interesting works of art. They have been here for many, many years."
But in not many days they could all be gone.
Brenda Chapman: "It's lunacy at its worst."
Brenda lives near the Pompano Harness Track at Cypress Bend Four, which was told by the city of Pompano Beach to chop down almost every tree on their property -- a total of 85 of them.
Brenda Chapman: "These little black spots look like black plague, but they actually represent every tree that the city wants to fell."
From the thick ficus trees to the 30-foot tall black olives...
Brenda Chapman: "These two, they go."
Patrick Fraser: "Why?"
Brenda Chapman: "Because they don't like them. The city doesn't like them."
From the trees near the condos, to every tree that lines this street, Pompano's certified arborist said, "Get rid of them."
David Webb: "It makes me very mad, very frustrating."
David Webb heads the condo association battling to keep its trees. He says the trouble began when they cut down 12 trees killed by Hurricane Wilma, which they didn't get a permit to do.
When the city came out and started inspecting their other trees, they decided most had to go.
Brenda Chapman: "It's a total travesty. I just can't understand it. I am very, very upset."
Upsetting and expensive -- since it will cost the homeowners over $100,000 to carry out Pompano's orders, and, if they don't do it by the April deadline, the city wrote that they can start fining them $1,000 a day.
Brenda Chapman: "Our association is devastated."
The association feels the city is using selective enforcement.
Look at this -- the trees on Cypress Bend property have to go, the trees across the street on another property can stay.
Patrick Fraser: "What's wrong with this tree?"
David Webb: "Oh, I think it's the canopy that's wrong."
The cities solution: Replace the tall shade trees with 150 saplings and then wait for them to grow.
Brenda Chapman: "It will look ugly; there is no way it is ever going to look as beautiful as it does now. It will be 20 years."
It's frustrating, infuriating and frightening to the residents, faced with losing their money and all their trees
Patrick Fraser: "Can you defeat the city?"
David Webb: "Well, are you going to help us?"
Help with some answers -- that's your cue, Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Obviously, there is a problem here. If Pompano's standards were enforced across South Florida we would probably lose most of our tall trees. The association has a right to be upset, but, legally, the city seems to be within its rights. However, the city has to lighten up or lose most of the trees in Pompano."
When I spoke to Pompano's arborist she told me, "I have no option but to enforce the code. We did a hazard assessment and found that some of the trees had been hat-racked and were not safe; others had not been maintained and could topple in a hurricane."
When we asked how forcing an association to chop down the trees and replace them with saplings accomplished anything, the city's attorney told us: "We are willing to give Cypress Bend 60 days to come up with an alternative plan to bring in their own arborist to determine if and how the trees can be saved."
The city told me, "We want to work it out."
We will work with them if they will work with us -- and, Howard says, if residents are not happy, they need to get to work on making changes.
Howard Finkelstein: "Pompano is not unique. Many other government agencies have similar tree standards. If you don't want to lose your trees, contact your city and county commissioner. Let them know that the standards may be unrealistic."
The association is willing to do anything to save a $100,000 -- not only save their trees but the wildlife that needs them.
Brenda Chapman: "Maybe we can come up with a compromise -- trim the trees that they don't like. We are perfectly willing to do anything that they want, but please don't chop our trees down. It's going to ruin our complex."
Patrick Fraser: "A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday where the city will give the condo association 60 days to counter their demand that all the trees come down. We will follow this one because it could theoretically affect a lot of trees in South Florida.
Treed a problem you want to chop down to size? Need some enforcement help? Contact us; we will try to provide a little legal shade for you.
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