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Amid protests, Safety Harbor considers tree removal moratorium

SAFETY HARBOR| The city has called an emergency meeting for 6 p.m. Monday to consider a possible moratorium on tree removal while commissioners finish work on an ordinance that strengthens its existing tree protection law.

The meeting, to be held at City Hall, comes amid protests over last week's removal of about a dozen trees by the privately-owned Safety Harbor Resort and Spa to make way for an improved parking lot.

Safety Harbor's current ordinance protects only grand trees of a certain size. So, the spa, which city officials say has been considering its project since at least 2005, applied for and was granted permission by Pinellas County. The spa is pursuing permits for additional tree removal of dead, dying and hazardous trees.

The project has upset a vocal contingent of residents who call it an affront to the environment and the city's charm.

City commissioners in recent months have revisited a years-old request that the city tweak its ordinance to expand authority to all trees within city limits.