Arborists Offer Update on Tree Study During October CDD Meeting

A request from an Abbotsford resident prompted a difference of opinion between supervisors at the start the meeting.

The resident wanted a permit for the removal of a large oak tree causing problems to her property – lifting sidewalk slabs, causing cracks in the driveway and creating problems with the sprinklers. Supervisor Chris Barrett responded by saying his primary concern is always the preservation of the tree canopy and he was worried that this was the second request from Abbotsford in a short amount of time. He went on to say that any removal of trees impacts the property value for that resident and that of other homeowners. He reminded the resident that the County will be fixing sidewalks in The Fords and The Bridges during the next fiscal year. With this consideration, he confirmed he would be voting against the permit. Field Manager Doug Mays, however, was concerned with the lean of the tree and reiterated that so many of the trees were too large for their small locations. Supervisor Jim Wimsatt agreed with Mays and insisted that while, in general, he fell to the side of preserving the trees, each request should be looked at on a case-by-case basis and in this instance the tree should probably be taken down due to the danger posed by the lean. A motion to allow the removal of the tree eventually passed 3-2, with Barrett and Supervisor Greg Chesney voting against it.

Mays then introduced Mark Hughes and Tom Konar from Arborist Aboard who presented the tree study they are currently conducting in our community. Their work began in February on 20 trees in The Bridges. The aim of the study is to understand how best to mitigate the damage to sidewalks caused by the large oak trees while having the least impact on the trees. The methods they are using are twofold: 1) structured pruning, which encourages interior growth rather than growth of long, unstable branches; 2) the use of plant growth regulators, which suppress growth and are beneficial to the tree and its environment.

Due to the nature of these measures, significant data will not be available until the end of the growth season next fall. The supervisors were impressed with the study and hope it will aid them in establishing a comprehensive tree and sidewalk plan going forward.

Two associates representing Westchase Properties attended the meeting to make a request on behalf of a local business owner who was interested in purchasing an easement owned by the CDD behind the library. The Board was quick to explain that the District had long-term plans for this land with respect to eventually developing a recreational area for the community. Barrett went on to suggest that residents in the Shires would not want a commercial owner developing land behind them. He also reminded the representatives that even if the land was for sale, it would have to go to auction and they would have no guarantee of purchasing it. The other supervisors echoed Barrett’s stance.

During her Attorney’s report, Erin McCormick asked the Board to consider a request from TECO to lease an additional easement during the cell tower construction. Allen Ruiz from Vertex had explained to McCormick that this would be a much more direct route than going through the land already leased by Vertex. The Board had a number of reservations, such as the impact on the project if they reject the request. They also questioned whether this was merely a cost saving exercise and if this would give TECO another opportunity to stall the project. Unfortunately, Ruiz was unable to attend the meeting. Supervisors agreed to carry the item forward to the workshop on October 17 so that he could answer the Board’s questions.

In his report, Mays requested that the Board consider purchasing their own street sweeping machine. For years, the CDD has been paying a company to sweep 5-7 times a year. Mays explained that for a big community such as Westchase, it would be more cost and time effective to have their own machine, which can be used multiple times a year and when it is really needed. In answer to some of the Board’s questions, Mays confirmed they had a staff member who had a license to operate such a machine, they have somewhere to store it and they have a debris pile to empty it onto. The Board will consider it for next year’s budget.

Office Manager Sonny Whyte confirmed she had recently received a letter from the Sheriff’s office clarifying that the cost to hire their officers would be increasing, which would impact the cost of the Santa Parade. Because she did not yet have actual numbers in hand, the Board agreed to carry this item over to the October 17 workshop as well.



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