By Kelli Jo Hull
For Hometown News
Residents of an area originally known as the Powers Subdivision, off Dunlawton Avenue near the railroad tracks, are unhappy with Atlantic Marine's development of a 3.68-acre site for a boat sales/repair facility and outdoor storage.
The property in question is home to a tree service and small mechanic's shop. A wooded lot that also is part of the project was cleared in August by the developer, setting off a controversy over property borders with adjacent homeowners, future fence placement by the developer and objections to the removal of trees.
An about 20-foot deep section beyond property owners Fred and Dru Urquhart's back fence is in dispute. According to the Urquharts, the survey they received from Atlantic Marine's representative Jack Wiles "does not have any of the existing historical field monumentation being referenced or used. Instead geographically different new markers have been placed by his surveyor."
In an August e-mail exchange with Mr. Wiles, Mr. Urquhart stated, "When Mr. Royal Powers and his wife Carla sub-divided this area in December 1925, there were Permanent Reference Monuments required to be erected per Sec. 7 of the Survey Laws of 1925. Three of these P.R.M.'s create your South and West boundaries as they are common to mine. These three P.R.M.'s have been used ever since by multiple surveyors to locate these boundary lines."
Questioning why the markers were not used in Mr. Wiles' survey, Mr. Urquhart added, "My surveyor had no problem locating and marking them in 1990, and my other surveyor found and used them for my purchase of the property next door in 2011 without knowledge of or use of the previous survey."
In response, Mr. Wiles stated in an Aug. 21 e-mail, "I am not qualified to understand what happen since 1925; however I do understand land is re-platted and deeded all the time and that could certainly be the case in this instance."
City officials have been provided copies of the surveys involved and, according to Port Orange City Manager Gregory Kisela in a Dec. 13 e-mail to neighborhood resident Dianne Gardner, he has "directed Community Development to retain a licensed surveyor to review the assortment of surveys that have been submitted to try to determine the correct boundary for the fence" the developer wants to erect and clarify property lines.
Angered over the clearing of the wooded lot, several residents have voiced concerns regarding the timing and approval process by the city for tree removal.
According to Mrs. Urquhart, land clearing began on Aug. 8 and "was finished and the debris removed the second week in September." She said that her "husband, Fred, called the code enforcement hotline regarding the clearing on Sept. 1" and a city official came out to their property on Sept. 3. Atlantic Marine's Tree Removal application was not received until Sept. 24, according to city records.
After several more phone calls to the city, the Urquharts followed up with an Oct. 14 email to Port Orange City Councilman Bob Ford detailing their concerns. Port Orange Senior Planner and Landscape Architect Margaret Momberger responded to the Urquharts in an Oct. 22 e-mail stating, "We have the tree removal permit on 619 Lemon St. -- approved and issued Oct. 11. Prior to issuing the permit, we looked at how the proposed tree removal would affect the adjacent property owners and required a 50-foot setback from the rear property line so that the existing trees would remain until a final development plan comes forward. The tree removal complies with land development requirements."
In response to the clearing of the lot, Ms. Momberger said, "The clean-up/clearing was done by the property owner to remove junk and debris that had been left on the property over the years. It came to our attention through concerned residents. The property was inspected by Engineering and Code Enforcement staff and found to be in compliance."
On Nov. 19, Mike and Dianne Gardner sent a letter to Principal Planner Tim Burman stating, "The developer of the property caused the illegal removal of trees and natural vegetation from the property and this was done in clear violation of the City of Port Orange Land Development Code as well as the developer's own MDA. Of special concern to us is the 40- to 50-foot area that abuts the residential areas around the proposed development. Since the LDC provides for this area to be a landscape buffer between residential and commercial areas and emphasizes the need to use existing natural vegetation whenever possible this 'code violation' seems especially egregious." The Gardners are asking for the developer "to file a restoration plan before construction starts on the site."
The Gardners contend that when the developer cleared the site "and city officials were notified of this violation, they chose to ignore their own ordinances and instead allowed what amounts to wholesale clear-cutting of the land to continue."
When contacted about the tree removal issues on Dec. 18, Community Development Director Wayne Clark said Ms. Momberger inspected the site after the city was first notified by residents and found no evidence the developer removed trees inappropriately. "There were no left over trunks, no root-balls" or anything else that clearly indicated trees had been removed, he said. Additional investigation by the city included pulling "Google Earth pictures to try and determine what was there" previous to the lot cleanup. "It was almost a curtain of vines and impossible to see what was beneath them," he said. He added the lot in question "meets the requirements for the number of trees for that site."
Also on Dec. 18, Ms. Momberger described her initial visit to the site. "The adjacent properties were full of debris. This property looked like someone came in and mowed and cleaned it up," she said. She affirmed there was no evidence of tree removal at that time including "no empty holes." When asked about the residents' claims the property was "clear cut," Ms. Momberger said, "I would not support that assertion. There were still many trees on the property." She explained that after the tree removal permit was issued some smaller trees on the interior of the property, "mainly hard woods and palms" were removed, but were done so in accordance with the permit issued.
Mr. Clark said the city has been working with both the developer and residents to make sure there was "good communication" between all parties since the beginning of the project. Residents were invited to initial planning meetings and city staff has been responding to information requests from the residents. Additionally, the city plans to hold a meeting to allow all interested parties air their views regarding the proposed development on Jan. 8.
The city had initially planned to review Atlantic Marine's Planned Commercial Development rezoning request in December but, according to Mr. Clark, postponed that to Jan. 23 in order "to get the public comment before we finalize the information for the Planning Commission and City Council."
When Atlantic Marine was contacted for comment on these issues, Mr. Wiley stated in a Dec. 17 email, "I am sorry, but at this time we don't have anything new to report."