Emerald Coastkeeper asks court to block destruction of Heritage Live Oak

 On Aug. 8, Escambia County Development Services Director Horace Jones, acting through the County’s Development Review Committee, approved the destruction of seventeen protected trees including an 85” Heritage Live Oak, which the County arborist certified was the largest Heritage Live Oak ever measured in Escambia County.

This case is a tragic example of poor enforcement of existing ordinances that should have been followed to protect the trees.

The County justified the removal of these protected trees on the applicant’s (A+ Mini-Storage of Pensacola) refusal to modify its proposed building size. The proposed building to be built on its 0.5672 acre parcel of property acquired in April 2021 at a cost of $121,000.00 will cover all but 723 sq. ft. of the former residential lot. 

Because the County approved the enormous size of the mini-storage building and because it covers the entire parcel, the adjacent stormwater pond had to be increased to accommodate the additional impervious surfaces. Increasing the size of the stormwater pond resulted in the approval for removal of more protected trees. 

Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc. appealed the action of the DRC to the Board of Adjustment (BOA) on Aug. 25, but the BOA voted to dismiss the administrative appeal based on A+ Mini-Storage of Pensacola’s argument that Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc. lacked standing to maintain its appeal. As a result, the BOA did not hear the facts of the case or rule on the merits. 

Today Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc. through its attorney, Will Dunaway of the Clark Partington law firm, filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court of Escambia County asking a Circuit Court Judge to declare the Site Plan Development Order to be inconsistent with the County’s Comprehensive Plan and to prevent the property owner from taking any action, including the removal of any protected tree onsite, until a valid development order is issued. 

Florida State law specifically authorizes this lawsuit and affords Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc. the standing to maintain it in Chapter 163.3215 Fla. Stat. (2021) and the recent First District Court of Appeals case out of Walton County, Imhof v. Walton County, 2021 WL 4189197 (September 15, 2021). 

Emerald Coastkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance and sustains over 350- member organizations worldwide. We promote the health and well being of fishable, drinkable, and swimmable waterways. 

Locally, Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc. has for more than a decade been focused on ensuring the tree ordinances of Escambia County and the City of Pensacola have adequate protections for preserving Heritage and other protected trees. Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc. knows the value of protected trees for the contributions they provide to the watershed and the control of stormwater. This case is a tragic example of poor enforcement of existing ordinances that should have been followed to protect the trees. 

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1 thought on “Emerald Coastkeeper asks court to block destruction of Heritage Live Oak

  1. The financial commitment and risk to ECK is tremendous. Community support is crucial.
    For all those who voiced outrage and concern is not just about the trees on this property, it is about holding leaders accountable to follow the ordinances
    In place. Please support ECK

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