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South Tampa News

Tampa council wants answers about tree cuttings in Ybor

Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:39 PM

City Council members want to know how and why their staff decided to cut down more than 100 trees in Ybor City late last week.

Staff administrators will respond at the council's meeting next Thursday.

The destruction surprised many people in Ybor, and angered merchants in the historic district who watched work crews saw off the trees.

City officials say the tree removal was part of a project to replant about 375 trees in Ybor and downtown Tampa at a cost of $422,000. They acknowledge that notification of the mass removal was done poorly.

"We're going to do a much better job (in the future)," said Greg Bayor, the city's parks and recreation director.

By Oct. 19, city officials say, 114 olive and crape myrtle trees will replace and add to the total pre-cutting count of trees in Ybor's business district.

Councilwoman Mary Mulhern, who called for the staff report, told Bayor: "I'm not scolding you. I don't hold you responsible. I hold the mayor responsible for making this really big decision without any public input."

City officials have said the Ybor Community Development Corp., a city government entity which includes some Ybor merchants, was consulted about the project.

Mulhern said the incident raises questions about the city's decision-making process, public notification and whether the Barrio Latino Commission was notified. The commission is a volunteer board that oversees preservation of Ybor's historic districts.

Mulhern also wants staff members to discuss how Tampa's tree ordinance affects the city's actions in such instances.

Seminole Heights resident Susan Long said she was appalled by last week's mass cutting and lack of notification. "If I want to so much as trim a branch I have to get a permit for $100, roughly," she said. "They (city officials) don't give us any forewarnings."

ksteele@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7652

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