A 43-inch caliper live oak will escape the chopping block for now.
The Ormond Beach City Commission unanimously voted on Oct. 2 to remove a historic oak and preserve another in an upcoming development near U.S. 1.
The property at 8 Coolidge Ave. is home to three historic live oaks of 36-, 43- and 45-inch caliper, said Planning Director Steven Spraker. The lot is owned by Reno Guerrieri, of OG Property Holdings LLC, who hopes to build an office and business storage warehouse consisting of 14 units for a total of 14,400 square feet.
City staff recommended that the 45-inch caliper live oak be removed. (This was the second time the commission considered removal of this tree; the commission approved its removal in 2013, but the approval expired when the project didn’t move forward.)
The City Commission agreed with staff and voted to remove the tree on Oct. 2.
The commissioners also had to decide the fate of the 43-inch caliper live oak, whose roots would be “severely impacted” due to its proximity to the planned building location. City staff recommended denying Guerrieri’s request for its removal because previous building designs showed the possibility that the impacted units could be designed with a “notch” that could help save the oak.
Shannon Julien, director of environmental services for VHB, had worked on the site in the past and was hired by Guerrieri to present an alternative view on the trees. She said that even if they move forward with a design that includes a notch, the building would still be encroaching on the outer edges of the tree canopy since the tree is growing at a slant. The trees in question are not “pristine trees,” she said.
“They are not these gorgeous oaks like you imagine off of Beach Street,” Julien said. “They’re pretty scraggly, and they’ve taken some hard hits over the years.”
The impacted units would shrink from 1,000 square feet each to 400 due to the notch. City Commissioner Dwight Selby asked Guerrieri if merging the units into one 800-square-foot unit could be a possibility. Guerrieri was reluctant, saying that it could work for a rental but that he’s trying to sell these units individually. For most of the people who purchase storage units, the narrow space would not be functional.
He said if he can’t remove the tree, he would lose the last three units. “There’s no way we can do it, and that’s why I’m here tonight,” Guerrieri said.
The project engineer asked if the developer could get a variance on the required setback from the building so that the tree could be preserved, which was briefly discussed. But Spraker said if the developer wants to pursue that option, he would need to submit a new site plan.
Even with the potential of a new site plan, City Commissioner Rob Littleton said he didn’t know how long the tree would survive if the developer were to build closer to it.
The commissioners voted 5-0 to preserve the 43-inch caliper tree, despite the developer’s objections.