Fernandina Beach Commissioners dive into tree protection controversy

By Wes Wolfe
June 24, 2022

‘Remember, our canopy’s 37%. We’re never going to be able to maintain it.’

Amelia Island’s trees are beloved by its residents, and problems with protecting those trees will go before the Fernandina Beach City Commission at the Commissioners’ workshop in a couple weeks. The issue drew a number of people to this week’s Commission meeting to press their concerns that real damage is ongoing to the tree canopy.

“In tree protection, we’re failing,” said resident Julie Ferreira. “Any talk about trees is just talk.”

Tree protection zones, she said, were a joke throughout the city, and the city’s tree culture needs a change.

Ferreira noted the removal of two large magnolia trees on South 7th Street when it was unnecessary. It’s part of a chainsaw-cowboy culture in the city and not one of protection, she said. Maintenance pruning could have saved one of the trees, but the choice was to cut it down instead.

“I will request the City Clerk, on the next workshop, put ‘tree protection,’ ‘tree inspection,’ ‘tree evaluation,’ as a topic,” Mayor Mike Lednovich said. “We can spend some time and explore these issues and find some solutions.”

He also directed City Manager Dale Martin to come back to the Commission with ideas of what the city can do.

One of the problems is in development.

“You all saw the Amelia Bluff tree protection zones,” Vice Mayor Len Kreger said. “This is a major — I think there’s probably six or seven houses out there — not one of them had a tree protection zone. There was garbage, there was cinder blocks, there was everything.”

It’s crazy, he said, that there are all these tree protections that don’t seem to be carried out because of improper maintenance.

“We’re out there planting hundreds of trees, we have a tree management plan … 17 pages, there’s like five lines devoted to tree maintenance,” Kreger said.

He intends to reintroduce a proposal for the city to adopt tree construction procedures from an international arborist standard.

“We lose more trees during construction — we’ll have to plant a thousand trees,” Kreger said. “Remember, our canopy’s 37%. We’re never going to be able to maintain it.”

It’s a management issue they need to do better on, he added.

The discussion came on the same night as the Commission voted to protect six trees within the city as heritage trees, each “irreplaceable due to its size, age, and its historic, aesthetic, or cultural significance,” as defined in the city’s land development code.

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Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet (@guest_65505)
1 year ago

Time for another committee and of course another study!!! Not. Like it or not, we live in a Capitalist society and money does indeed talk. Building on AI? ALL trees get marked off if they are to be saved. Building department shoots a video with the inspector’s phone which gets uplinked to the Cloud AS IT IS BEING TAKEN so contrary to developments past, the evidence is not “lost”(think the clear cut done with Amelia Dunes, the opus the contractor slipped at the gas station down at Harris T’s or many other “improvements since 2012). The contractor slips and gee wiz I did not realize those trees were to be saved…..

Well gee wiz……… that’s $75,000.00 per tree, cash no financing with a materialmen lien on the land. Pay up. Proof of the violation? Compare the two viedo clips. Appeal rights? Sure but the Development stops until the fine is paid or the contractor is bankrupt. No fine compromise period. Oh and the ordinance, proclamation or whatever has the offender paying ALL costs and fees, legal or otherwise of the City/County.

Trust me as a person with over 39 years of commercial/industrial development experience given the financial pain possible with economic teeth in your laws suggested above, you will have the builders paying attention. AS for all the “shirts” who will lawyer up and scream “the fine has to fit the crime”. BS, yes it does fit. WE value the trees(or what’s left of them) on this island. Anything short of the above is as par usual here in the Land of the Golden Goose…….. just lip service. Think something this straight forward could just get done? Naw let’s let the Kommittee look at it.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_65506)
1 year ago
Perry Anthony
Perry Anthony (@guest_65527)
1 year ago

STRICT ENFORCEMENT, Amen to that. I nominate Nicholas Velvet for the next open city commission seat. Or even a Nassau County Commission seat will be open soon, after the last one got a DUI on Sadler Rd last week by the FBPD.

1 year ago

We need a non-profit organization set up by people who want to volunteer to save the trees and start a outreach program to the community to educate on why they are important and ask them to donate to the cause, once people are invested they will help protect the treas.
Stop spending tax money on this!
Any time tax money is involved you know it will take 10x longer at 100x the cost!

Alyce Parmer
Alyce Parmer (@guest_65512)
1 year ago

The trees taken from Amelia Bluff were to be mitigated in part with trees planted along the Hickory Street right of way egress into Egans Creek. Three spindly saplings are the total mitigation to date by the city, despite promises of more. Those three would be dead if not for neighbors along the Hickory egress who water them. Talk is cheap. If we really care about our canopy, we need to hold the City Commissioners and City Staff to account.

Pat Batchelder
Pat Batchelder (@guest_65514)
1 year ago
Reply to  Alyce Parmer

Mitigation is just a scapegoat for developers. It is destroying Florida.

Perry Anthony
Perry Anthony (@guest_65528)
1 year ago
Reply to  Alyce Parmer

I think the only commissioner who is TRUSTWORTHY is V Mayor Len Kreger, as he is a gentleman and a man of his word.

Bill Fold
Bill Fold(@bill-fold)
1 year ago

The only way this atrocity will ever be stopped is for all residents of FB to demand the commissioners to institute a total moratorium on development of subdivisions, condos, apartments, and commercial buildings. It should not be allowed to resume until the administration has a handle on the mitigation of the maintenance and protection of all trees, especially Live Oaks and other indigenous trees. Until a viable plan is adopted and approved for protecting all trees, this Willy Nilly method in place now is nothing but a joke. Mr. Kreger is right

Perry Anthony
Perry Anthony (@guest_65529)
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Fold

Ingenious idea,lets put a petition together! SERIOUSLY! We need to DISRUPT the commission like we did years ago concerning street vendor Felix on his 3-wheel bicycle. It was a LANDSLIDE!!! The very admirable retired local attorney Dan MaCranie even came forward to his rescue.