Last week, an email circulated throughout the Village of Palmetto Bay decrying the widescale removal of trees at the Hester property, a free-standing grove of mango trees bordering SW 184th street near SW 82nd avenue, and owned by the Palmer Trinity School. Written and forwarded by Betty Pegram, President of Concerned Citizens of Old Cutler Inc (CCOCI), the email assailed Palmer Trinity for bulldozing 33 acres of Mango trees, in violation of a, “standing signed resolution” by Palmetto Bay prohibiting the school from removing any trees until they have a building permit for their desired school expansion.
According to Pegram’s email, “Palmer Trinity has proven it yet another time that they have no regard for the neighbors, the environment or any agreements they have made with the residents and village.” Spurred on by Pegram’s words and emotions, CCOCI members and angered residents forwarded copies of the email to the village Council and Administration, demanding action be taken to halt the tree removal.
There’s just one problem – there is NO standing, signed resolution prohibiting the removal of the trees – a fact confirmed by the Eye on Palmetto Bay in a direct conversation with village Manager, Ron Williams.
Over the span of five years of contested zoning hearings and court rulings regarding Palmer Trinity’s expansion, both proposed ideas and Council resolutions have come and gone. Any real or perceived prohibitions restricting the clearing of the grove have been pushed aside after two recent appellate court rulings against the Village of Palmetto Bay and in favor of Palmer’s application for expansion. Ms. Pegram’s email also asserted the “…wholesale destruction of the grove will displace the nesting peacocks, (and) destroy their eggs.” But Pegram failed to mention Palmer had consulted with local wildlife relocation expert, Todd Hardwick, prior to the removal of the trees. Hardwick advised Palmer not to touch the birds, since peafowl are roamers and will flock to the remaining trees. As to eggs, peahens do not begin nesting and laying eggs until April, with most nesting activity occurring later in the rainy season of the summer.
One fact is certain – Palmer is removing acres of fruit trees. However, a review of the permit issued to Palmer by the Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) calls for the installation of over 1200 new trees. In essence, the long-term environmental impact of the removal of the fruit trees is mitigated by Palmer’s plans to replace the trees.
Pegram’s emotions are understandable. Her home and those of many of the CCOCI members are adjacent to Palmer Trinity’s campus, and the uncertainty of the school’s planned expansion on the quality of life in their neighborhood is a legitimate concern.
Still, emotions cannot be allowed to cloud zoning issues. Fabricating or misstating facts concerning Palmer’s permitted clearing of their property perpetuates hard feelings on both sides and brings our community no closer to a resolution of this ongoing land-use dispute.
How do you feel about this issue?