Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Lutz outcry gives trees in U.S. 41 medians a reprieve

LUTZ — Residents fighting the removal of trees from medians on U.S. 41 got an apology from county officials last week, and the trees got a reprieve.

County officials who met with residents Thursday night conceded they were too hasty and there was a lack of communication about a plan to remove dead or diseased trees in an area from the Apex shopping center to the Pasco County line.

It was part of a larger plan to remove most of the median landscaping and give maintenance responsibility back to the state Department of Transportation. Residents who heard about the plan last weekend mobilized in opposition.

"We goofed because we didn't come to you in advance, and for that I apologize," said Lucia Garsys, a deputy county administrator. "This is not the way we want to conduct business."

County and DOT officials, as well as state Sen. John Legg, met with more than 100 concerned Lutz residents who packed the Lutz Community Center demanding answers.

"You are now in Lutz. Lutz is a different place," said Mike White, head of the Lutz Citizens Coalition. "You have a unique community here, we're trying to be independent and we're not being allowed that luxury."

Garsys and several other officials gave this explanation of why the proposed tree removal moved so quickly and without public input: The county determined it couldn't afford to keep maintaining the 14 medians and handed that responsibility to the DOT.

The medians' grassy areas are maintained by a private company. County officials concluded that the 86 trees in the median had to go because they were thought to be dead or dying.

That infuriated some residents, who reminded officials that they had made some concessions when U.S. 41 was expanded to six lanes.

"There was a contract with the county and FDOT, and part of it was a beautification of U.S. 41 that included the medians," resident Gaye Townsend said.

Lutz residents also brought in a certified arborist to rebut the county's claim that many of the trees were dead or dying. The county wanted to cut down as many as 60 crape myrtle trees, planted in 1998, citing maintenance issues and their age.

"Crepe myrtles have a lifespan of 25 to 50 years and, once they are established, need little maintenance," arborist Mary Bryson said. "These trees give us a sense of place. Don't take away our sense of place."

Other residents cited massive landscaping projects that the county had funded, including work done for the Republican National Convention. Others questioned the county's motives for removing the trees. County officials ultimately agreed to postpone any tree removal, allowing residents time to develop new proposals for maintaining the medians.

With so many civic associations and the community support, residents may find the means to do it themselves. The larger issues involve handling the maintenance while complying with liability and safety issues. The medians can be a dangerous place with cars driving by at high speeds on both sides, said Jim Moulton Jr., director of transportation operations for the DOT's Tampa district.

"It's not something you want the Girls Scouts to go out there and do. It's dangerous," he said.

Still, residents offered to step up and help.

"You provide the insurance, people here will do it," said Blake Olsen of the Citizens for Sanity group.

County officials also seemed appeared willing to help.

"We want the county to function as an intermediary with volunteer groups," Garsys said.

Comments

Updated: 4 minutes ago
Mom service dog has puppies in Tampa airport, while dad service dog looks on

Mom service dog has puppies in Tampa airport, while dad service dog looks on

TAMPA — Travelers killing time at Tampa International Airport’s Gasparilla Bar got an unexpected show Friday when a dog gave birth to eight puppies near Gate F81. The 2-year-old golden retriever, Eleanor Rigby, owner Diane Van Atter, and...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Did the NFL really need a national anthem policy?

Did the NFL really need a national anthem policy?

Before we even get going, let me be clear about something.This is not a column making an argument about whether or not NFL players should be able to kneel in protest during the national anthem.That topic has been debated repeatedly, loudly and passio...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

The pups are an important addition to the populations of this rare Florida species, and the first red wolf births at the zoo since 1993.
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Bucs’ Gerald McCoy welcomes Vita Vea to his rookie school

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy welcomes Vita Vea to his rookie school

TAMPA — Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has always been generous with his time, staying after practice to work with younger players. That should be a real added benefit for first-round pick Vita Vea.RELATED: More Bucs coverage"That's my M.O.'' Mc...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
The Bucs’ influence inside the Vegas Golden Knights’ runaway success

The Bucs’ influence inside the Vegas Golden Knights’ runaway success

The Stanley Cup final begins Monday in the unlikeliest of places, in a city brand-new to major pro sports and suddenly the center of the hockey world: Las Vegas, whose Golden Knights could become the first expansion team to win a championship.And whi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Bucs’ Mike Evans is among the NFL’s best receivers, except when it came to this

The Bucs’ Mike Evans is among the NFL’s best receivers, except when it came to this

TAMPA — Only three players in NFL history have posted 1,000-yard receiving seasons in each of his first four years seasons: Randy Moss, A.J. Green and the Bucs' Mike Evans.RELATED: More Bucs coverageBut by Evans' standards, 2017 was "proba...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Now let it sink in: 60 straight baseball wins quite the feat

Now let it sink in: 60 straight baseball wins quite the feat

FORT MYERS — It had been more than two years since Greg Olsen had to give one of those talks; the kind in which silver linings abound, while across the field, a different team celebrates winning gold.Olsen's Calvary Christian baseball team gath...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Alberto to dump rain on Cuba before turning north and drenching Tampa Bay

Alberto to dump rain on Cuba before turning north and drenching Tampa Bay

TAMPA— The first tropical system of the 2018 hurricane season has formed in the Caribbean and threatens to drench the Tampa Bay area with heavy rains and potential flooding over the Memorial Day weekend.As of 2 p.m., Subtropical Storm Alberto — which...
Updated: 1 hour ago