Homeowners in Sarasota, Florida, were outraged in February when they discovered their HOA planned to remove 37 mature oak trees from their backyards in a misguided attempt to protect a wall.
“They called it a wall repair, then all of a sudden it was, ‘37 trees have to come out,’” Roger Metz told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Metz and his partner Desiree Moulton own two of the targeted trees. “Everybody seemed pretty surprised that, in this day and age, anyone would even think about doing something like that.”
The HOA in question governs Greenfield, a community of 103 households established over 30 years ago, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. According to the Greenfield HOA, the roots of the oak trees damaged the wall.
But homeowners Moulton and Metz said otherwise. Apparently, the crack in their section of wall came from a car that crashed into it years ago. Photos from two years ago confirmed that the crack hadn’t changed in at least that long.
Still, the Greenfield HOA insisted that not one, not two, but five professional arborists had reported that the trees caused the damage. The HOA didn’t provide the supposed arborists’ report to the homeowners — just assessed a special fee to cover the $70,000 tree removal.
Removing the trees would cause irreparable harm to Moulton and Metz’s property. Originally, their two oaks shaded their backyard, providing a comfortable, peaceful refuge on hot Florida days. Also, like any tree, they helped purify the air and provided food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.
“These trees are a complete and total pain in my [expletive] once a year when they drop their leaves and those fuzzy things,” Metz told the Tribune. “But they are so worth it. If they took these trees out against our wishes, I wouldn’t want to live here anymore.”
Moulton agreed and threatened a lawsuit against the HOA if it removed the trees. Changing the HOA’s rules would also be an option.
Luckily for Moulton, Metz, and the other Greenfield residents, there are laws in place to protect established trees like these ones. According to Sarasota County’s municipal code and an independent arborist, their size and age qualify them as “Grand Trees,” which can only be removed with a permit or with the permission of the property owner.
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