Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ordinance Misread for 5 Years

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ordinance Misread for 5 Years

Article excerpt

Jacksonville's top zoning official has been misinterpreting the

city's tree ordinance for five years, City Hall officials said

yesterday.

In at least one instance, Building and Zoning Chief Claude

Bagwell let a Texas developer remove far more trees from a

Southpoint development than the law allows, a mistake that

activists say cost the city thousands of dollars.

"I'm not entirely sure that we're going to attempt to go back

retroactively -- but the mayor's commitment is to correcting

this misread from this day forward," said Susan Wiles, deputy

chief of staff to Mayor John Delaney.

Bagwell said he applied a less restrictive tree-mitigation

standard "four or five" times since 1992, and only in instances

where public lands were being developed.

"There haven't been a lot of instances, but it's been

consistently wrong," said Bagwell, who has held the job since

1984.

The problems were highlighted when a neighborhood activist

began raising questions about City Hall's handling of the

Galleria Pointe development at Interstate 95 and Butler

Boulevard. The large Southpoint retail and business center is

being developed by Dallas-based Staubach Retail Services.

Suzanne Jenkins, chairwoman of the Southeast Citizen Planning

Advisory Committee, is challenging Bagwell's decision to issue

the permit to cut down hundreds of trees on a wedge of

state-owned land that buffers the development and the I-95/Butler

intersection.

The land is owned by the state Department of Transportation,

which allowed Staubach to clear the site to maintain sightlines

from the highway.

According to city Assistant General Counsel Theresa Matchett,

an expert on land-use issues, there are two standards for tree

mitigation, one for public and one for private land. …

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