By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE -- A business owner is upset that a tree on her commercial property was split in half by a vegetation management company with no forewarning.
Carol Whitlock, who, with her husband, owns a small retail building at 4626 Clyde Morris Boulevard across the street from the Gulfstream Village, recently complained to the city that tree trimmers from Asplundh Tree Expert Co. came onto her property and cut in half a tree she owns.
"We maintain the property the way the city wants it to be," Ms. Whitlock said. "This company came on our property with this big, heavy equipment, drove onto our lawn, and they cut one of our big trees vertically. It's a 27-year-old tree. We planted it."
Ms. Whitlock said she believed the tree was far enough from the power lines and the tree trimmers could have trimmed along the power line instead of splitting the tree in half, which resulted in debris being dropped underneath the shrubbery.
"It's so, so unnecessary," she said, adding she wondered how it could happen when Port Orange has a "Tree City USA" designation from the Arbor Day Foundation.
When the tree was cut down, an Asplundh employee told Ms. Whitlock they were there to keep trees off the power lines. Neither Asplundh nor Florida Power & Light, whose power lines serve the city, contacted her ahead of time to inform her the tree would be cut down.
So Ms. Whitlock took her concerns to the city and met with a code enforcement officer last week. She said the code enforcement officer told her the issue would be brought to City Manager Ken Parker's attention. A representative from Asplundh was also supposed to be present at that meeting but did not attend.
Kerry Leuzinger, building official with the code enforcement department, said a code enforcement officer went out to the property as a courtesy, but added he believed no city code violation occurred because Asplundh has a right to trim trees in the way of power lines. FPL contracts with Asplundh for tree trimming services.
Asplundh is a vegetation management company based in Willow Grove, Pa. A regional representative for Asplundh who was reached by phone declined comment, saying he was unaware of the situation.
An FPL representative said FPL has different minimum setback requirements for different types of trees. Medium-sized trees must be at least 20 feet from power lines and large trees must be 30 feet away; palm trees have a setback of the maximum palm frond plus three feet, while shrubs and small trees less than 20 feet tall can be planted near power lines. The representative said line clearance is important to prevent power outages and flickers.
But Ms. Whitlock claimed the tree was destroyed met the 20-foot setback requirement for medium-sized trees.
Ms. Whitlock hopes city staff will do something to prevent tree management companies like Asplundh from going on to someone's property to cut trees without the owner's permission.
"It's not right," she said. "We should have some say over what happens over our own personal property."