Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Help Me Howard: Tree Trouble
Tree trouble for a South Florida family. They wanted to cut down a tree in their yard that's damaging their property, but the city told them "No" you have to keep it. Is that legal? Here's Patrick Fraser with tonight's Help Me Howard.
WSVN -- Susan Groden: "Yes, our backyard is a whole butterfly garden."
The Grodens have a nice natural backyard.
Susan Groden: "We planted it, I really believe in using native, drought tolerant plants, good for the environment and the animals."
They take care of South Florida's plants and animals, and in return nature pays them back.
Rich Groden: "We enjoy it. It's beautiful. It's a pleasure to walk out in the morning or evening and enjoy the beauty."
A beautiful backyard, and then this in the front yard.
Susan Groden: "Bischofia."
A large towering bischofia that provides shade. The bad news, well, it can take awhile.
Rich Groden: "These roots are definitely going into our foundation right here."
The roots ripping up the foundation, while the branches do their damage from above.
Rich Groden: "After Hurricane Wilma, it dropped a limb that took our power out."
Susan did her homework and discovered the biscofia is considered weak, and susceptible to breakage. Its causes so much damage that homeowners in Dade and Broward are banned from planting it.
Rich Groden: "It's an invasive. It's classified by the city of Plantation as an invasive tree, it's on their list."
Susan Groden: "I had several landscapers, tree services come, and they all said, this is a weed, you need to get rid of this immediately."
So being a law abiding tax payer in Plantation, Susan asked the city for a permit to cut it down.
Susan Groden: "And they came by and they said, no, this is a healthy tree, it's fine."
Susan was told the tree provided shade. She said fine, I'll replace it with a couple of fast growing, safe shade tree.
Susan Groden: "We'd be happy to plant whatever tree the city of plantation asks us to."
The city still said no, and even though its illegal to plant, even though it's costing them money when storms blow through, Plantation wants it to stay here.
Susan Groden: "I mean you know, we try to be law abiding citizens and obey the rules but when the rules just make your life so miserable, and it seems like they have no reason for it, you kind of wish why didn't I just chop it down, say I'm sorry, and pay the fine."
But can a city block you from chopping down a tree that damaged your home, messed up your property and is illegal to plant? Howard...
Howard Finkelstein: "It doesn't make sense, but the city has a right to do something that defies the laws of common sense, as long as they comply with their own rules and regulations. And even more unbelievable, if this tree damages the Groden's house or knocks a hole in their roof, the city isn't responsible for that either."
When I asked Plantation's landscape architect why they would block someone from cutting down a tree that's a nuisance and illegal to plant he told me...
The tree is healthy and it's grandfathered in. If it were a bad tree they could take it down.
When I spoke to the mayor, she told me we lost a lot of trees after Hurricane Wilma and we are trying to protect our tree canopy in Plantation. She said if the Grodens didn't like the decision they could appeal it to the landscape review board.
Howard says but don't get your hopes up.
Howard Finkelstein: "Understand these boards are appointed by the elected officials. The city's case will be presented by a city official, on the other side, the taxpayers. You probably aren't surprised to find out in most of these appeals the city board sides with city employees against the cities taxpayers."
Despite the odds, the Grodens are going to appeal to the board, hoping they will let them legally cut down this illegal tree.
Susan Groden: "We love this city. We love Plantation, and we don't want to cause problems, we want to do what is right."
Patrick Fraser: "And of course they have to pay to appeal the city's decision and go before the board. Think about it. Cities and counties give you headaches and then if you think they are wrong, they make you pay if you try to fight back. Is this a great country or what?
Got a situation thats left you ready to snap? Need someone to get to the root of the problem? Branch out to us. We may not be able to see the forest for the trees, but we know how to embark on the right path. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser Seven news.