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Pasco disregards its own policy on trees

Letters to the Editor
Published February 1, 2006

On Aug. 29, I watched with a sinking heart as three enormous live oak trees bit the dust at 4805 Land O'Lakes Blvd., a property next to the lake I live on. As a citizen advocate, I stopped to inquire about a tree removal permit and to measure and photograph what remained of the 52-inch, 47-inch and 18-inch stumps. I asked the property owner if a tree removal permit had been issued and he said he was unsure. One thing I was sure of that day was that there was no permit posted, a clear violation of Section 6 of the county's tree ordinance.

I contacted the county and found a permit had been issued with very specific conditions. With a copy of the permit and an approved tree list in hand, I paid a return visit to my neighbor. We discussed the permit requirement that "the owner must install 117 inches of approved/beneficial trees within 60 days of removal" and that those trees be chosen from the approved tree list. After this, he offered me a job tending bar at his restaurant. Perhaps I should have taken this as indicative of what would be forthcoming. Instead, with effort, I politely refused the job. I chose to believe that my knowledge of shoreline plantings wouldn't be wasted on someone who knew when he took a chain saw to those oaks that he had accepted responsibility for the permit requirements.

I continued to monitor the situation. On Jan. 17, a code compliance officer informed me that the property owner had another violation, which was illegal dumping of tree debris in the wetland. Once that was taken care of, I was assured that the compliance issue of replanting 117 inches of trees would be addressed. Of course, this is five months after the tree removal and three months after replanting was required by the permit.

Imagine my shock when, on Jan. 26, I was informed that the case had been returned to development review for the purpose of negotiating a variance to the already issued permit! Since when does the staff have the authority to do this? Forgive me if I have overlooked an ordinance section labeled "How to Negotiate Your Way Out of a Tree Permit Once the Dirty Deed is Done."

Obviously, there was no doubt in Mr. Permit Violator's mind that he could avoid the conditions of his permit or he never would have removed those trees, which carry the risk of a $500-per-tree fine. Instead, five months later, the trees are down and the stumps pulverized and he's looking at being relieved of his permit requirements.

If this were a single incident, it wouldn't be so bad. But this is becoming standard operating procedure. Remember a fast-food restaurant in Land O'Lakes two years ago? Instead of landscaping required under the tree permit, it put in concrete, and was granted a variance after the fact. And do we remember the violation in east Pasco that involved unauthorized removal of several hundred oak trees on land that was not in bona fide agricultural use? That owner got to plant hay, and there still aren't any replacement trees.

So, I ask, is our tree ordinance a joke or does the county intend to uphold its own rules?

-- Jane Brandt, Land O'Lakes

Buyouts eject seniors, their interests

It is no surprise to me that the shuffleboard courts were nixed by our local city government.

It is the greed of the big corporations that are trying to remove all senior citizens. One of these people made it very clear last year he wanted all mobile homes out of New Port Richey. Beware he is running again for City Council.

Most of these parks have shuffleboard for their residents. Slowly our government is letting the homes of a very large population of senior citizens to be brought out from under them with no place to go. With the increases in health care and home insurance, these people can not survive, and our government shows no concern. Is it any wonder that they don't want the facilities that these people, who were the backbone of this great nation, find entertaining?

Harbor View, which was pictured in your article, is one example. Our park has been bought by one of the big corporations owned by Sam Zell, and the seniors who have lived here for the majority of their senior lives are being priced out. Who cares?

-- Mabel Kujawa, New Port Richey

Use vote to send message on insurance

Re: Insurance rates rise beyond their means, Jan. 29.

So, Pasco County commissioners can only offer the advice to move if you can't afford your homeowners insurance. Seems to me Pasco is part of the problem with its aggressive building and development.

Overpumping of well water to surrounding counties also puts a strain on the land, causing sinkholes.

Pasco has to realize it is as much responsible for this mess as the state for not mandating that insurance companies do the job they are in business to do: insure. The people of Pasco better wake up, or they are all going to be in the same boat when the big insurance companies bail and you are left with only Citizens.

My insurance, if the insurer gets the increase it desires, will rise from $3,800 to $9,800. That is absolutely ridiculous, if not criminal. Pasco, remember in the next election who your commissioners are and vote wisely.

-- Paul Cameron, Hudson

[Last modified February 1, 2006, 01:04:14]

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