Resident in the clear after tree removal complaints
Wildlife officials say they will take no action in the case of a Safety Harbor resident who recently bulldozed trees along the Alligator Lake shoreline in order to build a house. Some neighbors were upset, saying the plants served as a bird rookery.
Resident Peter Politis had a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to remove Brazilian pepper trees from the property and fill in a half-acre of marshland on the east side of the lake along S Bayshore Boulevard, according to the DEP. To do so, he is required to buy credits from a wetlands mitigation bank.
After some neighbors complained to authorities, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission opened an investigation. Officials were looking for evidence that there were nests of protected bird species where the work was taking place.
"We found that the complaints were unfounded," commission spokesman Gary Morse said. "We found no violations of the dredge-and-fill permit, nor any other indications of damage to the nesting birds."
Neighbors were not impressed.
Resident Jack Ferrara sent the Times photos of a bulldozer knocking down trees on the lot. "I'm not a botanist or arborist, but I don't think all those trees were Brazilian pepper," he said.
Alligator Lake is a significant habitat for nesting birds such as snowy egrets and wood storks, but authorities say the bird habitat is centered on two islands in the lake that were created specifically for that purpose.
Want to be a part of the Citizens' Academy?
The city is accepting applications for the Safety Harbor Citizens' Academy. Sessions are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and will begin on May 6 at City Hall. The Citizens' Academy runs for seven weeks and will be limited to 20 participants.
Academy members will be chosen on a first-come, first-served basis, with preference given to Safety Harbor residents.
The Citizens' Academy will tour key facilities, learn about the challenges facing Safety Harbor, interact with city leaders, discover ways to get involved with local government, and learn about the essential functions of municipal government.
Applications can be picked up at City Hall or downloaded from the city's website. The deadline for applications is April 11.
French Market makes an encore appearance
The 12th annual French Market returns Saturday with a daylong shopping spree and fundraiser for the Botanical Gardens Foundation.
New this year to the free event are blankets, scarves and other items made from the fibers of alpacas raised on a local ranch. Visitors can meet the alpacas in their on-site corral. Also, photographer Laurie Ross will be autographing her new book, Shop Dogs: A Photo Essay of Dogs that Go to Work.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., shoppers can walk the market grounds at Julie's Cottage at Provence and Periwinkles at 13128 Indian Rocks Road to find coastal distressed furniture, vintage jewelry, garden accessories, wood potting tables, yard art, kitchen gadgets and more. Pastries, muffins, cookies, sandwiches and wraps will be available throughout the day.
The Botanical Gardens Foundation will sell memberships for $30. The money is to be used for renovating the 2-acre West Garden for new picnic areas and landscaping.
Free parking will be available at Anona Methodist Church across Indian Rocks Road.
Budget talk time
City commissioners Thursday kick off preliminary talks about Dunedin's 2015 budget. During a public workshop, scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon at City Hall, staff will seek commissioners' guidance on which priorities to set as they debate cuts, additions and the possibility of 3 percent merit raises to bring non-union city workers in line with pay increases negotiated separately for firefighters. City leaders will also discuss their 20-year capital improvement project schedule. For more information, go to dunedingov.com and click the "Agendas & Minutes" tab.
Clothing castoffs can help kids
Clothes To Kids needs boys and girls clothing and shoes. Pants, jeans, shorts sizes 4 to 16, long-sleeve and short-sleeve shirts sizes S to XL and shoes that are kids 11 through adult sizes are needed. The charity provides a full week's school wardrobe to more than 50 schoolchildren each week. That's why it always needs more clothes and shoes. New or gently used pants, shorts, shirts and shoes can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays at 1059 N Hercules Ave. in Clearwater. Clothes To Kids has shopping appointments available for students K-12 who are on the free and reduced-price lunch program. If a child receives free or reduced lunch, he or she qualifies for a shopping trip to Clothes To Kids for a free week's worth of clothing.
For an appointment in north Pinellas, call (727) 441-5050 (Clearwater store). Once you have your appointment, bring your Free & Reduced Lunch Letter to your appointment. Visit clothestokids.org for more information.