Property owners angered by hoopla stirred up by tree

           Kathleen and Keith Padgett said they are reconsidering their plan to move to ‘The Friendly City’ after flak over a Live oak tree that was cut on their property.

LONG BEACH

Kathleen and Keith Padgett began traveling to the Coast from their Florida home in 2007 to go to casinos. They drove down U.S. 90 and fell in love with Long Beach, despite the destruction from Hurricane Katrina.

The Padgetts decided to buy a beachfront lot in Long Beach and build a home there, but events over the past few days have caused the couple to question whether or not they have found “The Friendly City.”

The couple requested and received a permit to cut down what they and city officials said was a diseased and damaged Live oak from their property. The Padgetts said that since it was cut down last week, people have stopped to take pictures of the tree sections left on their lot and have scolded the contractor and questioned him about why the tree was removed.

The Padgetts said they are reconsidering their decision to make Long Beach home.

“We were planning on moving here,” Kathleen Padgett said. “But now I’m not sure. We’ve already made enemies of our neighbors. This city is never going to come back if they don’t get rid of these roadblocks. These busybodies need to mind their own business.”

Long Beach residents and members of the city’s tree board were outraged when the tree was cut down. Building official Earl Levens said Wednesday he should have taken the permit request to the Planning Commission as the city’s ordinance requires; however, he said he didn’t know what the process was and thought he could issue the permit himself.

Levens said, though, that the tree’s trunk was hollow and it looked as though a large branch had split from it. He said since the Padgetts are having to elevate their home because of FEMA regulations, the tree would have needed severe pruning if it hadn’t been cut.

The Padgetts lived in Florida for Hurricane Charlie and said 80-mph winds split a healthy Live oak. They said it wouldn’t have taken that strong of a wind to fell the tree on their Long Beach property.

She added that in Florida, insurance companies required that some trees be cut in order to continue a homeowner’s policy.

“When we came here and saw this tree, I knew it had to come down,” Keith Padgett said. “It was in bad shape. I love trees. I didn’t want to cut it down, but we had to.”

By MELISSA M. SCALLAN – mmscallan@sunherald.com

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