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Tree tiff's message resonates in Largo

LARGO — Nancy Perry said her pleas initially fell on deaf ears when she and the residents of the Paradise Island manufactured home community went up against City Hall this fall over a tree-removal permit.

But Perry, Paradise Island's park manager, succeeded last week after months of effort in securing a fee waiver worth $1,475 so a 74-year-old resident could remove trees that were lifting her home off its foundation.

Although a small event in the grand scheme of the world, the little victory seemed to shake up the attitudes of Largo's leaders.

Another dispute over trees in a city neighborhood this month seemed to affirm the change of tone.

Tim Walsh, who lives on Forrest Parkway, south of Eagle Lake Park, wrote an e-mail Dec. 1 to the city's parks superintendent, Greg Brown.

The department was moving ahead with planting sycamore trees along the neighborhood's median — something Walsh and some of his neighbors were not happy about. Sycamores, by their rabidly deciduous nature, produce a lot of leaves.

"I think this will be considered a BIG mistake 10-15 years from now when the tree roots grow into the sewer pipes below," Walsh wrote. "Not to mention that sycamores have the biggest leaf of native American trees and will cause a mess on our streets."

Brown wrote back, after follow-up phone calls from Walsh:

"Thank you for your e-mail and calls concerning the Mayors Street Tree Beautification program planting on Forest Parkway. As you know we are planning to plant sycamore trees on the road in the median. … So we are 100 percent set at this point on the sycamore," Brown wrote.

Not so fast.

On Dec. 8, the day after Paradise Island won its permit, Vice Mayor Robert Murray decided to intervene.

"Mac, please ask Greg Brown to hold off on the tree selection until I have the opportunity to speak to Mr. Walsh," Murray wrote to City Manager Norton "Mac" Craig in an e-mail. "I would also like to speak to Greg about this issue."

Commissioner Curtis Holmes chimed in shortly thereafter.

"I concur. We don't need another Paradise Island fiasco; plus we need to remove the perception that staff is merely riding roughshod over the residents," Holmes wrote in an e-mail to Craig.

Craig responded that the tree selection is now on hold.

On Monday, Walsh said Murray, who had visited him two previous times regarding the issue, stopped by to let him know that sycamores won't be planted on his street.

"He said the city of Largo isn't going to do the sycamores. He said we'd get a choice of magnolia or elm," Walsh said Tuesday. "At least they're giving the residents a choice."

Murray issued a statement Tuesday as well.

"I spoke to Mr. Walsh a couple of times, and with Greg Brown's help, I believe we have it worked out," Murray said.

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

Tree tiff's message resonates in Largo 12/14/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 4:55pm]
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