|Posted by Anne Siren on March 29, 2013 at 3:15 PM|
By Judy Vik
Oakland Park – City commissioners on Wednesday approved plans for a public parking lot at 1201-1235 E. Oakland Park Blvd, but not before two of them tried to save a live oak tree at the site.
Commissioners Suzanne Boisvenue and Jed Shank tried unsuccessfully to convince the board to change the plan and save the tree.
Of the 44 trees on the property, the 40-foot live oak is not recommended for relocation because of a typically low survival rate and the cost, about $19,000.
The parking lot is needed to support the establishment of a culinary arts school in the adjacent building at 1299 E. Oakland Park Blvd. and to provide additional public parking at the southern end of downtown. Using every inch of the property, the lot will contain 83 parking spaces.
The city is working with the property owner and Broward College to establish the school at the site as recommended in a five-year strategic plan prepared by the city’s consultant Redevelopment Management Associates.
Justin Proffitt, senior planner, said a consultant evaluated each tree on the site. Ten will be preserved, 21 removed and 13 relocated. The site contains live oaks, slash pines, gumbo limbos, ficus, sea grape, a variety of palm species and wild tamarind. The two largest trees targeted for preserving are two laurel oaks, 38 and 35-feet high.
A significant amount of new canopy is proposed. The city will donate $24,544 to a city Tree Preservation and Replacement Trust Fund.
Vice Mayor John Adornato said this was a tough decision. “By day, I’m a paid tree hugger. I work to protect the environment.”
He asked about the long-term goal for the property. “Are we paving paradise to put up a parking lot? Is our long-term goal not a parking lot?”
Ray Lubomski, community and economic development director said, “It’s a significant piece of property to be developed. It’s the gateway into the downtown.”
Shank said he understands the parking lot is needed to attract a culinary school. He said he’s not a paid tree hugger, but he’s a conservationist. He was troubled by the removal of the 40-foot oak tree and a couple of the slash pines. “Could we build a parking lot and keep the oak tree?” He asked if the design could be changed up a little.
Commissioner Shari McCartney said it was time for the commission to take action on what they’ve set in motion (the proposed culinary arts district.) She agreed it was “very disconcerting to take away a tree of that age and beauty.”
McCartney said the commission needs to be careful not to thwart their goal. She noted the site will have significantly more foliage than normally required. “Our ultimate goal is for it to be a building or entryway. Calling it “an untenable but necessary decision,” she moved to approve the site plan as presented.
Boisvenue argued there was no reason to remove the oak tree. “There’s no contract” (with a school), she said. “We’re going through all this and what if they don’t sign?”
Amos Chess, the property owner, urged the commission to move ahead and approve the site plan. “What are you waiting for?” he asked, adding that if they approved the pan, he would donate the funds for the Tree Preservation Fund.