In a somewhat testy meeting Tuesday night, the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved allowing Lantern Walk residents to cut down 14 oak trees they say are causing severe damage to sidewalks, driveways and sewer pipes.
But before approving the application, the commission spent more than an hour debating the issue, angering the Lantern Walk homeowner’s association president.
“I’m not happy with the procedures here in Royal Palm Beach,” said the president, Valerie Gerold.
Even Chairwoman Jackie Larson conceded the commission “was beating (the issue) to a pulp” and taking too long to make a motion for a vote.
Commission member Darrell Lange expressed concern the residents didn’t submit a comprehensive landscape plan specifying when the trees would be removed and where the new trees would be planted. Larson said she had the same issue.
But that kind of information isn’t part of a typical landscape plan, said Kevin Erwin, the village’s development review coordinator. ‘They don’t need a full-fledged landscape plan for the scale (of work) they’re doing,” he told the commission.
Lantern Walk residents say some of neighborhood’s towering oaks are cracking sidewalks and driveways, a problem Gerold said will cost about $35,000 to fix. That price includes removing trees, repairing driveways and replacing sod.
At last month’s meeting, the commission postponed a vote, telling Gerold to explore other options before having the trees removed. The commission suggested maintaining the trees by root pruning or putting root shields down. It also suggested Gerold meet with a professional tree surgeon.
This time, Mark Baker, a certified arborist based in Delray Beach, was at the meeting with Gerold and four other Lantern Walk homeowners. After walking around the neighborhood, “it’s pretty obvious these trees wouldn’t make today’s grades and standards,” Baker said.
Baker wants to replace the trees with oaks, maples, magnolias and crape myrtles.
Gerold couldn’t say when work would start. She also wasn’t sure how long it would take to remove all the trees and plant 14 new ones.
Gerold said about 12 homes have been affected by the oaks, with a few residents tripping over the roots, which are sprouting 6 inches high in front of some homes.