Oviedo issues fine against builder for violating agreement to save trees

Builder claims trees are dead; city won't let homeowners move in

OVIEDO, Fla. – The city of Oviedo issued fines against a builder after it claims it built homes too close to trees and caused them to die, violating an agreement made between the city and the developers. 

City leaders approved developers to build the Evans Square subdivision in 2016.

Lisa Kovac lives down the road from the new community. She said she loves the trees that line the neighborhood.

The city said it made an agreement with the developer to preserve the mature trees along Hillcrest Drive and South Lake Jesup Avenue.

"As we have watched this development happen, that is not what is happening," Kovac said. 

The city said the builder, David Weekley Homes, knew about the agreement to save the trees when it bought the land from the developer, but Mayor Dominic Persampiere said the builder still built four homes too close to some trees.

The builder said those trees are now dying and need to be removed. The builder claims the trees were already dead when they got the property. Brent Bartholomew, division president at David Weekley Homes, addressed the City Council on Monday. 

"The intent was never to come in and tear any trees down," Bartholomew said. 

Persampiere said this is the builder's problem and they ignored the agreement.

The City Council said it would let the builders remove the trees, but it would be required to plant eight replacement trees on the four affected lots (two trees per lot), plant an additional 36 trees throughout the community, pay $9,000 into the city's Tree Bank, build three shade structures in the neighborhood parks and pay a $50,000 fine to the nonprofit organization Friends of Oviedo.

"I know it seems in your minds that we may be unreasonable, but put yourself on this side of the desk. We had an agreement on these trees," Persampiere said. 

A representative from David Weekley Homes issued the following statement:

David Weekley Homes supports the objective of saving trees in Evans Square, as trees add value and beauty to the property and enhance the Community.

The 4 trees at issue in the dispute with the City of Oviedo were already dying when David Weekley Homes acquired the lots from Sunterra, the developer of the Community.

Through our efforts to preserve trees in Evans Square, including the retention of an arborist, we were able to save 14 trees in Evans Square.

David Weekley Homes did not ignore the City requirements; in fact, in due regard for the City requirements, David Weekley Homes retained an arborist to inspect the 4 diseased trees and determine what could be done, if anything, to save them.  The arborist determined that the trees were dying and would become a “hazard to persons and property” if not removed.

David Weekley Homes submitted a request to the City of Oviedo to remove the 4 dying trees.  The City granted the request, but imposed these conditions to removal:

1. Plant 8 replacement trees on the 4 affected lots (2 trees per lot);
2. Plant an additional 36 trees throughout the Community;
3. Pay $9,000 into the City’s Tree Bank;
4. Construct 3 shade structures in neighborhood parks; and
5. Pay $50,000 to an organization called “Friends of Oviedo, Inc.”

David Weekley Homes had no objection to the first 3 requirements, and expressed willingness to plant a total of 44 trees to replace the 4 to be removed, as well as contribute to the City’s Tree Bank for future tree plantings.

Our objection to the last two requirements is based on: 1) the fact that we do not own or control the neighborhood parks and have no right to construct the structures required on that property; and 2) the $50,000 to the “Friends of Oviedo, Inc.” is an illegal exaction.  Moreover, the intended purpose of the organization and the intended use of the funds is not directly related to the ordinance at issue.

David Weekley Homes is a family-owned, privately-held home-building company.  Our purpose includes enhancing the lives of our customers, our team members, and the broader community through our approach to home-building. We appreciate the concern for protection of trees which add beauty and value to the property and to the community, and look forward to reaching a reasonable resolution of this matter, and that will be in the best interests of our home buyers in Evans Square and the broader community.

The builder is fighting the fine, calling it illegal. The city said it will not issue certificates of occupancy to those four homes, which means the homeowners can't move in until the fine is paid. 

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