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Tarpon Springs adopts policy to protect trees

TARPON SPRINGS — To create more than 2 acres of artificial wetlands, a contractor had to clear some trees from North Anclote River Park.

But the contractor told city officials that mostly invasive Brazilian pepper trees would be cut down and mulched. Instead, a resident reported additional oak, pine and palm trees were ripped up and destroyed during the work in December.

The Tarpon Springs City Commission formally adopted a policy Tuesday night to prevent that from happening again.

"I think it's a good policy," said Vice Mayor Chris Alahouzos. "For the future, it's good for checks and balances as well."

The policy requires staff to notify city commissioners of specific numbers, sizes and species of trees slated for removal on any city projects. If city commissioners object to any planned tree removal, they can address it before the project starts.

The policy supplements a city ordinance that protects trees from being removed without a permit — an ordinance that usually doesn't apply to city projects.

High visibility for ad

The city found a prime place to launch Tarpon Springs' new marketing and branding initiative.

"Visit Greece without leaving Florida," reads the advertisement on the back cover of the Republican National Convention visitors' guide for delegates, which is published by the Tampa Bay Times.

"It was a real coup," said City Manager Mark LeCouris told commissioners at Tuesday's City Commission meeting. He boasted that Tarpon Springs beat out several other prospective advertisers for the placement.

The ad features a sponge diver and directs visitors to a new website, VisitGreeceInFlorida.com. The ad cost about $3,000, LeCouris said, an expense that the city will share with local merchants.

City settles lien

Also Tuesday night, the city finally agreed on a settlement for a 10-year outstanding lien — for a fraction of the debt.

In 2001, too many cars sat at Percy's Towing, 424 N Pinellas Ave.

That's a code violation, an inspector told the landlord and tenant.

But for 304 days, the problem wasn't fixed. It racked up more than $45,000 in code enforcement fines.

It was, LeCouris said, one of the city's "biggest eyesores."

After the property owner's initial offer of $600 to pay off the lien, city commissioners voted 4-0 to accept a second offer of $2,000 for the violation. Commissioner Townsend Tarapani was absent from the meeting.

The deal slashed amounts due that totaled $1,700 in fines for a previous violation involving an unsightly dumpster; $45,600 in fines for the nearly year-long illegal collection of cars; and $1,150 in administrative fees.

In accepting the $2,000, commissioners expressed a desire to move on. LeCouris shook his head as the violators left the meeting.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or swang@tampabay.com.

Tarpon Springs adopts policy to protect trees 08/22/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 7:43pm]
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