FORT WALTON BEACH — Kim Moran says she understands "commerce and corporate America and making money."
“What I don’t understand is the complete disregard of doing away with things that have been here forever,” Moran, who has been a homeowner on the Miracle Strip Parkway for 13 years, said Friday.
She was referring to having witnessed, over the past year or so, “multiple parcels purchased by new owners who swiftly cleared trees and growth that are far older than I am.”
Like other FWB residents, Moran takes issue with what the city’s tree-protection standards allow. The most recent clearing of trees to raise her ire occurred at 2 Miracle Strip Parkway SE.
Inter Mountain Management LLC, of Monroe, Louisiana, plans to turn that 1.73-acre property into a 100-room Residence Inn by Marriott. The land once contained the summer house of Fort Walton Beach pioneer Dr. J.H. Beal.
Some of the trees removed from that property could have been saved, said Moran, who lives at the Casa del Mar condos just west of the development site.
“There was plenty of room for them to accommodate their (hotel) parking” without removing all the trees that were taken out, she said. “They took out a huge oak tree. It’s just sad.”
Moran also bemoaned the loss of trees cleared out for other downtown developments during the past year or so.
For example, several old oaks, among other trees, were cut down last summer at 109 E. Brooks St. A seafood restaurant is planned for the property, which stands two lots west of Fort Walton Landing and is owned by local businessman Jayme Nabors.
Overall, many of the trees cleared for new development “were here long before us,” Moran said. “They are aesthetically pleasing. Miracle Strip is the heart of downtown Fort Walton Beach and it appears as if it’s going to be paved over.”
Spokesman Doug Rainer said the city’s Land Development Code does contain standards for tree removal and replacement.
“Single-family residential is exempt from the requirements and no permit is required for them,” Rainer said. “For any other development such as 2 Miracle Strip, through the development order process the applicant is required to do a tree survey to identify any protected trees.”
The code allows protected trees, such as dogwoods, southern magnolias and live oaks, to be removed. In return, though, the code requires that they be replaced on an inch-for-inch basis, measured as diameter at breast height.
“Basically, if 50 inches of protected trees are removed then 50 inches of new trees must be planted,” Rainer said. “A landscape plan is required also with the new development showing that the new development will meet all landscape/tree replacement requirements.”