Slavin-Wallace want tree removal permit reconsidered

EDWARD A SLAVIN JRIf St Augustine city commissioners find legal sufficiency to an appeal filed by Ed Slavin and Brian Wallace Monday evening, the city Planning and Zoning Board will have to take another look at their original approval for a property owner to remove trees from his yard.

If the request is found to be legally sufficient, before the owner can act to remove the trees located at 21-A Casanova Road on Anastasia Island, he will have to wait until after the PZB appeal is heard November 14, 2012.

The property owner, homebuilder Jonathan Benoit, who is President of the St Augustine Society, the non-profit organization that operates St Francis House, says that he intends to build a single family home on this lot. On September 4, 2012 the Planning and Zoning Board approved the removal of trees, and Benoit was prepared to move forward with construction.

On October 4, 2012, an appeal was filed to reverse the decision of the Planning and Zoning Board by Slavin and Wallace. The pair claims the PZB approved the removal of the trees “without testimony by an arborist, violating city code, and refusing to conduct a fair hearing”.

In their application for appeal, Slavin and Wallace say that if the trees are removed, it will impact them — creating “destabilization of the hillside on the property line”. The appeal describes the hillside as an “ancient dune line”. In addition, they are claiming that “removal of protected trees results in a loss of shade, beauty, and wildlife habitat”.

According to the appellants, a request for reconsideration was denied “without decrying any pertinent facts”.

When asked what specific action they want to see happen, Slavin and Wallace replied that they want the application to remove the tree remanded to the Planning and Zoning Board; to conduct a full, fair hearing with live testimony by arborist Chuck Lippi or an alternative.

Mark Knight, Director, Planning and Building Department, indicated that the residence is located in Conservation Overlay Zone 3; and, the trees to be removed are defined as “preserved trees” — based on their size and species.

Slavin and Wallace’s request is likely to be approved since it is one of the items on the “consent agenda” for Monday night’s meeting; and, unless it is removed, or moved to the regular agenda at the request of a commissioner, won’t be discussed publically.

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