The Winter Park Town Council will allow the Village Center to remove trees that are blocking business signs, but at a cost.
The Village Center businesses include REMAX, Coldwell Banker, and The Library Restaurant located on the east side of US Highway 40 in downtown Winter Park.
As part of the recommendation by the Winter Park Planning Commission, the town of Winter Park will charge Village Center $100 per linear foot for tree removal. Additionally, Village Center HOA will be responsible for landscaping with new agreed-upon trees and shrubbery.
"When the original plant material was installed 12 years ago, I doubt anyone considered what the material was going to look like when it grew up," said Mike Claney, representing the HOA of Village Center. "While it is beautiful and very appealing, at least four trees have grown so tall and large that they are covering up our signage and blocking the views to our businesses.
"All we are asking is to make changes to the material that will make sense for the business owners. It was the wrong material for the center to begin with, and we are willing to pay for the new material. There would be no expense to the town. The town, however, has imposed a very expensive condition on us replacing our landscaping," he said.
At an earlier meeting, town officials pointed out that the landscaping at the site was installed at town expense, which amounted to about $69,000 through a commercial enhancement grant program.
If the HOA does agree to what the Town Council has approved, "It comes at a very steep price to us," said Claney.
"Each tree is approximately 20 feet tall and to remove three trees, the imposed condition would cost the association about $6,000, plus $5,000 to $6,000 in estimated expense to replace with the right material," said Claney.
The board at Village Center is considering how to move forward with these conditions.
"We are willing to pay for the new material," he said. "The penalty is, at the moment, a large shock to our system."
The trees would be replaced by dwarf Alberta spruces that will grow no more than 8 feet tall. The HOA would be responsible for planting an additional five to six low-growing deciduous shrubs.
As of now, Claney is getting quotes from vendors on materials and planting cost. The town is going to measure trees with the center's representative to confirm linear feet of each tree. It will be up to the Village Center if they decide to proceed forward, according to town officials.
As an additional term of the agreement, if Village Center agrees and removes the trees, the HOA must provide the town with a cash surety for the cost of the replacement, plus 20 percent, to ensure completion of the landscaping as outlined in the agreement, according to town documents. The town will release all but 20 percent immediately following installation, and the remaining 20 percent will be returned after two successful growing seasons.
The HOA is still evaluating the recommendation, said Claney.
The money received from the cut trees will be put into future landscaping projects, said Winter Park officials.
"It almost feels like extortion" said Lance Gutersohn, owner of the REMAX Peak to Peak office at Village Center.
- Kristen Lodge can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610