Tree Controversy Leaves City Without Arborist

John Callendar wants to put a guest house next to his beach front home. To do that, he says unfortunately one of the 23 oaks trees on the land had to come down.

Callendar got permission from the city building official, so he hired someone to cut down the tree. The city's tree advisor says that shouldn't have happened.

"The city arborist will contact the owner for final approval before any tree removal or pruning can start," Phillip Remel said.

Remel is an arborist. Before Tuesday night he was also the city's protected tree advisor. Remel says he thought he was the only person authorized to issue permits to cut down protected trees.

Mayor Eddie Favre told Remel he believes the city's tree ordinance was amended in the mid 1990s, giving the building office joint authority.

"That's what we were going on. To allow the joint responsibility for both the building inspector, building official and the tree advisor. If it has not been, then it was a bad assumption on our part," Mayor Favre said.

An unhappy Remel replied, "The tree protection advisor is the only one that can issue permits. So if you feel we have concurrent powers then you don't need me."

Favre said, "That's not true."

Remel tossed his resignation on the table and stormed out of the meeting.

"The tree in question was cut down even though the lot is a huge lot and there's plenty of space to build a home. I think the ordinance has been violated I think somebody needs to be cited," Ward 2 Councilman James Thriffiley III said.

Ward 1 Councilman Doug Seal told city leaders, " We do need to have it clarified to the Council who needs to be writing permits."

Right now, city leaders are researching old records hoping to find a clear answer as to who can okay cutting down protected trees. The city council accepted Remel's resignation Tuesday night and will now seek advice from another arborist on a contract basis.

by Al Showers