Madison Green Resident Seeks To Save The Trees

Angelique Palmer of Madison Green’s Wyndham Village is on a crusade to save more than 200 oak and mahogany trees along the streets of her neighborhood that are scheduled to be cut down and replaced with palm trees.

“I went to a board meeting when I found out the board was planning on bringing down the trees that line the swales in our community,” Palmer told the Town-Crier on Monday. “It’s more than 200 trees. I asked, ‘How can you bring them down when you haven’t taken a vote?’”

Joe Gall, president of the three-member homeowners’ association board, told her that he had spoken to several of the neighbors and most of them wanted the trees down.

Palmer said she asked the board what she could do to stop them from cutting the trees, and they told her she would need to get a petition signed by at least 100 of the 192 homeowners.

“I went around with a petition paper,” she said. “I don’t want our trees replaced with foxtail palms.”

Palmer said she knocked on doors until she had 100 signatures. “I could have gotten more, but it takes a long time,” she said. “You knock on every door and you have to explain. Many of the people didn’t know what was going on.”

She submitted the petition at a meeting in December. But later, residents received a flier from the HOA stating that the tree cutting had been stopped due to the petition, but that the board was still considering cutting down the trees.

The flier stated that the roots of the trees had lifted the sidewalks, causing a liability hazard, and that foxtail palms grow large, giving a uniform tropical look. The flier asked residents to send in their votes whether they wanted the trees replaced or not.

At a meeting in March, Gall announced that the HOA had received 49 votes in favor of cutting the trees, and only five in favor of keeping the oaks and mahogany.

However, Palmer told the board that she was submitting her petition as votes.

“That’s what the people who signed the petition told me to do. They said, ‘No, we’re not going through this again, just turn them in again,’” she said. “We resubmitted our signatures as votes. At that meeting, they said it didn’t matter how many votes we had, since it was a matter of safety, they were just going to go ahead and continue with the cutting.”

Palmer said if it is a safety issue, she believes that there are alternatives to cutting the trees.

“I mentioned this at the board meeting,” she said. “To begin, you can cut the roots of the trees, put up root guards and fix the sidewalks. That’s what is done not only in Madison Green, but throughout Florida and the nation. If not, if it were a liability, there would be no communities with trees.”

While she was getting the petition signed, Palmer said many people told her they favored maintenance of the existing trees.

Palmer added that residents use the existing trees for shade and they have become a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

“We arrived in 2001, when our kids were young,” Palmer said, adding that she would sit under the newly planted trees for shade while she watched her children. “All the moms sit under the trees for shade while their kids play in the street. We are finally starting to get birds in our neighborhood because our trees are bigger.”

Palmer stressed that her disagreement is not personal. Her only goal is to save the trees.

“I wish to state that they are all very nice people,” she said of the board. “We are all neighbors here, and being on the board is a thankless job. They are doing a very good job, except in this situation.”

The cost to cut and replace the trees will be about $80,000, and Palmer has been told that the project could start as early as this week.

Gall told the Town-Crier that Wyndham Village is following the lead of many recently built developments that have found that the maturing trees are in too little space for the root systems. Changes have already been made in several other Madison Green neighborhoods.

“They had the foresight and support of residents to go ahead and do that,” he said. “If you go in there, the developments are a lot cleaner. They don’t have any sidewalk issues. They don’t have any storm drain issues.”

As manager of several UPS stores, Gall said he has had complaints from his drivers that they cannot navigate the streets without scratching their trucks and sometimes breaking off mirrors.

“The trees are growing up over the streets,” he said. “The roads are narrowing because of the trees.”

Further, he said that the trees’ falling leaves present a flooding issue by clogging up the storm drains. “We’re going to have to pay to have them flushed,” he said.

But he thinks the biggest issue is liability.

“There is a current lawsuit going on in one of the other villages that still has those trees,” Gall said. “A woman tripped and fell, and I believe she fractured her face. I fear for the negligence because I know that it’s there. We want to get this done.”

Gall said the HOA meetings are open and transparent, although sparsely attended, and he believes Palmer’s petition was not fairly composed because it did not explain the hazards of keeping the trees.

“It would be a tremendous cost to keep the trees and maintain them for the rest of their lives,” he said. “We might have to get rid of them anyway because they might just be too big. The root systems are enormous, and we are zero-lot line homes. These root systems are infringing on people’s sewage lines and irrigation lines, and eventually they could possibly go into the foundation.”

Gall added that the HOA is ready to sign a contract to replace the trees.

“We are ready to go,” he said. “I hate to get rid of the trees. They look nice. However, I think the palm trees will look better and be a better fit for the community going forward, and the financial stability of the community. One lawsuit would probably bankrupt us.”