110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Sep 18, 2012 - 9:35:52am
UPDATE 4:15 P.M. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 19 — Stetson University has pulled its request from the DeLand Planning Board's agenda this evening. Stetson requested a two-month continuance, a Planning Department spokeswoman said, so the request will probably come up during the November meeting. A date for that meeting will be set later.
PREVIOUSLY REPORTED —Stetson University's plan to remove oak trees that line the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center has raised the ire of some residents in the area.
Stetson's request is scheduled to go before the DeLand Planning Board during the 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19 meeting. Because of DeLand's tree-preservation ordinances, Stetson must obtain a variance from the Planning Board (acting as the city's Board of Adjustments) to remove the trees from the landscape buffer around the tennis courts at 330 E. University Ave.
Stetson wants to remove the
shumard or shumardii oaks that provide a tall canopy of trees around the tennis courts, and replace them with cherry laurels. The laurels are understory trees that don't grow as high.
"The issue is that the leaves fall on the tennis courts and cause a hazard to our tennis players," Stetson spokeswoman Cindi Brownfield said.
She said the cherry laurels will do a better job of blocking the tennis courts' bright lights.
The request originated with tennis coach Pierre Pilotte, Stetson's Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Grady Ballenger said late Monday, Sept. 17.
Ballenger was writing in an email to fellow residents of University Terrace, a neighborhood near the tennis courts. Al Allen, Stetson's associate vice president for facilities management, responded to the safety concern by requesting the variance to remove the trees, Ballenger said.
Ballenger noted he was writing as a University Terrace homeowner, not as a university employee.
He said he was trying to get the hearing delayed to allow more time for Stetson and residents to talk about the request.
Along with concern about the trees themselves is concern about what their removal would mean for neighbors. The canopy of trees dampens noise and bright lights coming from the courts.
"As the University takes down and replaces these trees to protect student-athletes, is there a larger plan to protect the peace and safety of our neighborhood?" Ballenger wrote.
Wayne Dickson, a retired Stetson professor, and his wife, Jewel, see no need to cut down the trees. A leaf-blower is the answer, Jewel Dickson said.
The Dicksons are concerned that they and other residents, many of whom have Stetson connections, didn't know about the plan until the last minute.
Wayne Dickson questioned whether leaves are the issue.
The City of DeLand arborist, Mariellen Calabro, said she had the impression the trees' height was part of the problem — they keep the tennis courts in too much shade.
The shumardii oaks aren't under any special protection, Calabro said. They're not historic, and they're not large enough to be specimen trees.
Cherry laurels, the planned replacements, grow quickly. They are "understory" trees that can be maintained at a lower height, but they still produce falling leaves and other debris from their flowers and fruits.
Calabro said she had made no recommendations to the Planning Board about Stetson's request.
The Planning Board meeting, at City Hall at 120 S. Florida Ave., is open to the public.
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