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Sands Blvd. palms: Relocation deadline approaching

By Staff | Mar 11, 2016

The March 22 deadline for Sands Boulevard homeowners to relocate palm trees from city easement or lose them is fast approaching.

More than 70 trees have been at risk since the city announced the sidewalk installation project being paid for with grant money from the state. Portions of the sidewalk south of Cape Coral Parkway have been installed or are in the process of being constructed where there are no trees in the way.

Some residents continue to push back against the city, which has offered to remove the trees at no cost to homeowners, but homeowners must pay the cost of relocation.

City officials point out that ordinance prohibits planting trees in the easement for just this reason. Anyone who plants anyway does so with the knowledge they must remove or relocate them elsewhere on their property if the city needs the easement for sidewalk or utilities projects.

“Sands homeowners want to relocate their trees but are not getting any direction from the city,” said Dan Sheppard, who owns Palm Source Nursery and has offered to help with relocation. “The city keeps telling me there are no medians suitable to relocate those nice royal palm trees.”

He said he offered to move the trees to the foot of the Cape Coral Bridge on city property but the city wanted a one-year warranty and for Sheppard to be responsible for watering them because there is no irrigation system in that area.

“Our mission is to provide a place for the trees in a median, at a park or at the bridge,” said Public Works Director Steve Neff. “We found there is irrigation at the bridge so if Dan is comfortable relocating the trees there we will not require a warranty, but we have not heard back from him. Trees need to get a good start so the have to be watered in personally or by irrigation.”

The tornado event in Southwest Cape in January destroyed a number of median trees along Beach Parkway and Neff said relocating trees there makes sense.

If the trees along Sands are not relocated by March 22, the city will cut them down and grind the stumps. Digging up the trees to relocate them can be a tricky process as many of the trees are planted over underground utility lines, Neff said.

“Sands is unfortunate, it’s a very challenging area,” added Neff.

Many of the at-risk trees are mature royal palms which, because of their trunk size, cannot be relocated between the sidewalk and the roadway where the city has agreed to allow trees to be planted. Sheppard said the city told him they would allow only one foxtail palm in front of each home.

Neff countered that Cape lots usually are 80 feet wide, so two foxtails could be planted beside the road as long as they are 30 feet apart, according to state standards.

“Putting trees closer to the roadway is not usual, so for visibility reasons – like for cars backing out of driveways – Florida regulations must be followed,” said Neff. “We worked closely with the bike ped group on this because the trees also affect the sight lines for bicycle riders using the bike lane at the edge of the road.”

Sheppard, who has spoken at City Council meetings a number of times on trees and median issues, said he got the feeling the city really does not want trees planted along roadways in the future.

“Privately, the city says they are on our side, but then they don’t really seem to want Cape Coral to have trees,” said Sheppard. “Every time I suggest something they throw up a roadblock. I said I would call the utility location number, but the city told me I had to call their guys.”

The city currently has two median landscaping projects in the works. Both are in the design phase at this time. A landscaping renewal project on Cape Coral Parkway from Del Prado Boulevard to Coronado Parkway is one project with the other from Cape Coral Yacht Club north on Driftwood Parkway.

“We have budgeted for those two, but there are no funds available for relocating trees like at Sands,” said Neff.

A separate project under consideration is the streetscaping project on Southeast 47th Terrace, but that’s just a proposal at this point, Neff added.

“It seems the city has money to buy new trees, but don’t want to pay to relocate them,” said Sheppard. “I’ve offered to relocate trees to medians all over the city. Instead of buying new trees for Cape Coral Parkway downtown the city could use these trees, but they won’t.”

Sheppard now says that he sees putting the trees at the foot of the bridge an insult to the citizens. It takes three steps to cut down the trees, he said. One crew cuts the trees down, another grinds the stumps and removes the mulch, and a third crew fills in the hole.

“I’m going to find out what the city spends cutting the trees down when the project is finished,” said Sheppard. “They could have relocated trees for what they will spend, so the money is there.

“Right now, I’ve given up on the whole situation,” Sheppard said.