Barkin’ Up the Wrong Tree


This post originally appeared on


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?

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  1. The real problem, Mr Araiza, CPA, is that people like you keep fluffing up the emotions on issues to feather personal poltical nests. Pretend all you want, but we all know what you were doing in passing out the fliers. You love to play both sides against the middle.

  2. Post 2 of 2: Dear Ms. PalmettoBayWatcher – I did not hand out fliers opposing Palmer's Expansion. I handed out fliers supporting a change to our village charter to require greater neighborhood participation in zoning applications re future school/church expansions. My position has never varied – we need to focus on our zoning ordinances, not on the property owners who seek variances. BTW: in your vitriol you failed to mention the first election was a two-way race. There were FOUR candidates in the last race, with the winner securing 37% of the votes to my 27%.

  3. Post 1 of 2: The personal barbs of Palmetto BayWatcher give further credence to the point of the article – emotions are clouding our communities zoning issues. We've allowed ourselves to become polarized into a "pro-Palmer" or "anti-Palmer" mindset when the real issue is whether or not our current zoning ordinances are compliant with the will of the majority of our residents.

  4. Last Saturday (April 2) my husband and I were driving west on Eureka Drive (SW 184th St.) from our home in the Cutler Hammock neighborhood adjacent to PTS. It was around 7.15 p.m. and we came across something in the road that we couldn't recognize until we were right upon it – a carpet of beautiful peacock feathers splayed out across the entire westbound lane. We were shocked. We've lived in this neighborhood for 28 years and peacocks have always co-existed with the human population. We have never seen a dead one – until April 2. The bird's body had been placed on the grass next to the PTS perimeter fence. I question the advice the local wildlife relocation expert gave to the powers that be at PTS. Can he really predict the behaviours of creatures who have had their habitat torn away from them in one fell swoop? Peacocks may be roamers that have the capability of roaming to another location but when they were faced with bulldozers that were destroying 90% of their habitat, they fled from their sanctuary of many decades and sadly became roadkill . I understand since the destruction began that there have been several other peacock casualties. I might add that during the bulldozing period the level of peacock calling between one another had risen dramatically and the tone of the calling gave the impression that these birds were truly traumatized.

    This is just one casualty directly attributable to PTSs aggressive expansion plans. And we all know that this is being done to increase enrollment, increase revenue, and to enable them to attract the brightest and best students and thus increase their ranking. Gulliver, Ransom, and Westminster watch out!!

  5. Facts were not intentionally falsified here, and the shame is that it is lawful that all those wonderful fruit trees, mangos I am told, are being destroyed. Of course Palmer Trinity wants more students , more students = more money and that's the name of the game. We are so overpopulated here, and everywhere, that there are hardly any of the wonders left in south Florida that most of us moved here to find. Quiet, gentle neighborhoods are a thing of the past in too many places, thanks to the hungry expansion of every kind of business you can think of. The double shame is that Palmer Trinity pays no taxes yet uses the resources of our village to excess already, and now are gung-ho, gangbusters ahead determined to increase that.

    This is a private school they have and want to expand, and pay no taxes. For that matter, the church should also pay their share of taxes, in my opinion, and without any doubt in the world, the schools they operate should be subject to taxes. The homeowners struggle to keep up with the increasing property taxes yet Palmer Trinity has tens of thousands of dollars just for starters to want to build a huge school and complex that will forever change the nature of that area where they are.

    I don't live there but it affects me also because it is just a question of time until other churches, schools, businesses, will steam-roll over another neighborhood just like this one. And it could be mine next. Since this school, Palmer Trinity, is in the middle of a residential neighborhood and not in the center of the city, there should be no question that they are forbidden to enlarge their facility. No, no, no to any expansion of Palmer Trinity

    When zoning issues/ regulations are clearly in the WRONG, you better believe there will be emotions about them, and they need to be changed. .

  6. Palmer Trinity pro-ports to be a "Christian School:, but they care not about their neighbors. They are just selfish a-hole!


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