Three non-native trees, approximately 80 feet tall, loom over David Pilston’s Bird Key home. For two years, he’s been asking the city to remove the Norfolk Island pines, which sit on the public right of way, because he fears they may blow onto his home during a hurricane.
“These trees create a constant mess in my yard, pose a potential risk to my property and my neighbors’ properties and could block evacuation routes in a storm,” Pilston wrote in a plea to Commissioner Suzanne Atwell, also a Bird Key resident. “I have requested permits to remove these trees twice in the past few years, but have been denied.”
Because his requests have not been approved, Pilston is threatening to get his lawyer involved.
“I now ask the city to remove them immediately,” he wrote. “Otherwise, I will notify my attorney and my insurance agent to consider the city of Sarasota financially liable for any damages to my property and/or my neighbors’ properties that might be caused by these trees in the future.”
Pilston is also going to send the city his $140-per-month gardening bill, “so that the city can pay for the maintenance of its precious Norfolk Island pines, and if the city does not pay, I will start deducting the cost of their maintenance from my annual property tax assessment.”
The city has denied Pilston’s request, because it has a policy not to remove healthy trees unless they are invasive species. Todd Kucharski, a general manager in the public works department, said the Norfolk Island pines are exotic species, not invasive.
Nevertheless, Kucharski, Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown and Neighborhood and Development Services Director Tim Litchet are planning to meet with Pilston to work something out.
EXOTIC VS. INVASIVE
• Exotic species are plants that are not indigenous to a region.
• Invasive species are any exotic species that threaten the survival of native plants or animals in a region.