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Council votes against planting royal palm trees in rights of way

By Staff | Nov 10, 2008

A 3-5 vote by Cape Coral council members Monday means it is still illegal to plant royal palm trees on the right of way near power lines. What is remains unclear, however, is what will happen to trees that are not in compliance.

Those in favor of keeping the trees say they are hurricane resistant and current laws punish people simply for planting royal palms.

Officials at the Lee County Electrical Cooperative, however, say the trees are a safety hazard and can reduce the reliability of electrical service.

“We are not opposed to planting trees, we are in favor of smart planting. It’s only going to take one homeowner planting his tree in the wrong place that could mean power outages for thousands of people,” said Diane Gilman, supervisor of vegetation for LCEC.

Some citizens in favor of the ordinance pointed out that trees are not the only culprit when it comes to outages.

“There are many more reasons for power outages than palm fronds touching a wire,” said Cape resident Bob Robinson.

Gilman said the $2.4 million spent on tree trimming in Cape Coral is a cost borne by consumers.

Mayor Eric Feichthaler, a supporter of the ordinance, countered that the $2.4 million comes out to about $1 per month for each customer.

After Councilmembers Dolores Bertolini, Jim Burch, Bill Deile, Derrick Donnell and Eric Grill voted against the ordinance, little direction was given as to where to go next.

Feichthaler pushed for council members to make up their minds on the issue.

“Are we going to ignore our laws again or are we going to remove 10,000 trees?” Feichthaler asked.

“We should send a message out to the citizens right now to stop going out and planting them illegally,” Bertolini said, although she stopped short of directing code enforcement employees to start enforcing the current ordinances outlawing the trees.