Tuesday, May 13, 2008

County Tree Ordinance Is Needed

Building a better tomorrow begins today. Actually it should have started a long time ago but we can see from the recent Pat Farrell town hall meeting last week (May 7) that nothing has improved when it comes to the county valuing the Islands old oak tree canopy. The recent loss of two canopy oaks on Johnny Mercer Blvd to allow for commercial development confirms this.

Here are the facts: The trees were in the public right of way which makes them public property. They were not interfering with the commercial development and had been specifically designated by the MPC to be "saved". For some reason the county decided to give the developer a 375 foot deceleration lane next to his project to allow for right hand turns into the new office project. The developer says he didn't even want the new lane but this county tree cutting has gotten so hot that now it's impossible to tell who is telling the truth.

What is not in dispute is that the property was zoned residential, not commercial. The Islands Land Plan duly adopted in 2001 specified the property to remain residential granting even more importance to its residential status. Of course what happened next is the all too predictable "zoning variance" which was granted by the MPC so the developer could build commercial. Why have a land plan at all if you are not going to follow it?

So now there are two issues hatched from this, "spot zoning" and the taking of canopy oak trees in the public right of way. When over 120 people showed up to Pat Farrell's 1st town hall meeting on the islands (since being elected almost 4 years ago) he was unprepared. The county staff pointed fingers in every direction, Pete Liakakis tried to point out that it was just two trees and the Islands has many more and the county has worked hard to give the citizens out there everything they wanted (except trees).

Alas, the most obvious thing was that the Chairman and the 4th district commissioner just don't get it. Well, I do and what I propose is an ordinance that specifically states that any canopy oak tree in the public right of way, public area or eased area will not be taken down without 1) public hearings, 2) a majority vote of the commission. This may not go far enough for some but it goes a long way to stopping canopy oaks from coming down without any discussion and without any direct accountability.


Anonymous said...

Whew, Jack Vecchio's "tell-all" letter to the editor on 5/26/2009 ("Island residents get political snow job") took the lid off what really happened at Pat Farrell's recent town meeting.

Sounded like political speeches and excuses all around at that "town" meeting--instead of serious talk about canopy trees.

"They don't get it ", is right.

Keep on talking. Judging by Vecchio's letter, more people agree with you than you might think.

John McMasters said...

Thanks. Yea, calling the event a "snow job" is a perfect description. Wish I had thought of that. Let's also remember what a dishonest town hall meeting it was. Islands citizens were not fooled or amused. Farrell has a growing problem on the Islands.