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More than 100 ‘dangerous' trees flagged for removal still standing in Winter Park

Orlando and Winter Park are among several Central Florida cities with the designation of being a "Tree City U.S.A."

9 Investigates learned at any given time, there are dozens of trees deemed dangerous or waiting for removal in both municipalities.

Investigative reporter Karla Ray asked what’s being done to minimize the risk to residents since some of the trees have been flagged for several years without any action taken to have them removed.

City leaders work to prioritize trees that are larger or close to utility lines to be removed more quickly than those that are smaller and pose a minimal threat of damage.

While many people do not want to see trees removed, attorneys said leaving the trees poses a safety risk.

On Braemar Drive in Winter Park, spray paint marks one of the major reasons Bill Crannick’s family moved in.

“We bought the house because of the beautiful oaks. This neighborhood is known for its beautiful trees,” Crannick said.

The swing where Crannick’s children enjoyed the shade from the laurel oak will soon be gone. The tree, and another across the street, are two of dozens in the city’s right of way that are flagged for removal. Many trees, particularly laurel oaks planted decades ago, are reaching their life expectancy.

“Especially because of hurricane season coming, they feel it’s a danger, and they’re going to take these down,” Crannick said.

Over on Byron Drive, there are three on Winter Park’s removal list in various stages; one spray-painted, another a stump and the third fully ground into mulch.  

The number of trees flagged for removal from city to city changes frequently, but earlier this month, Winter Park had more than 130 in its queue.

“Across the city of Orlando and Winter Park, there are trees that are ticking time bombs. Dead trees that are going to fall into a roadway. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when,” attorney Matt Morgan said.

Two years ago, Morgan won a $1.1 million judgment against the city of Orlando on behalf of a client who was injured due to a falling tree. A downtown Orlando tree, that had been flagged for removal for years, fell on his client causing serious injury. 

“Trees have a life expectancy, and when they die, we should take them down before they kill or injure citizens,” Morgan said.

But city leaders have to prioritize. Even though Orlando’s removal list is shorter than Winter Park’s, with 20 or so trees deemed dangerous or in need of removal, some of the trees have been on the list for more than two years.

Orlando’s assistant division manager of parks, David Wagg, said it’s not dangerous to leave the flagged trees standing.

“No, it’s not, because every tree is different as to why they got on that list,” Wagg said. Wagg explained that with taxpayers putting up around $450,000 on tree trimming and removal each year, some smaller trees will take more time to remove as the city ranks risk due to size or proximity to power lines.

“It’s a difficult task, and we work on it every day,” Wagg said.

Other "Tree City U.S.A." cities, including Altamonte Springs and Apopka, only have a few trees on a current removal list. The City of Sanford recently did an audit and identified a list of trees needing to be removed as well.

 

Daytona Beach hires attorney to draft panhandling ordinance

The Daytona Beach City Commission on Wednesday evening unanimously agreed to hire a constitutional attorney to draft an ordinance restricting panhandling in some parts of the city.

Commissioners will pay Michael Kahn $30,000 to write an ordinance that prohibits panhandling within 20 feet of the entrances and exits of businesses, banks and some government properties.

The city of Saint Augustine in April hired Kahn to write such an ordinance, and officials there said it has proven effective.

Watch: Some Daytona Beach residents say they're upset about housing project for homeless

"It's the balance there to preserve the constitutional rights of the solicitors while also preserving the constitutional rights of the many other interested parties," Kahn said.

Kahn said he plans to present the first reading of the ordinance to the City Commission by late August.

Daytona Beach police Chief Craig Capri said that in the past year, at least six panhandlers have been struck by vehicles, and four of them died.

"We've had some issues here in the city with aggressive panhandlers (who) are going up to people in traffic and banging on their windows and jumping in their cars, threatening people for money," Capri said. "We had a gentleman about two weeks ago (who) was out in the street in his wheelchair. He was hit, and he's still in ICU in critical condition."

In recent months, people working at a Krispy Kreme store hired armed security guards to prevent customers from being harassed, and those at a Wawa arranged to have an empty police car parked outside the convenience store.

Police investigate toddler's death in Orlando home

Orlando police are investigating the death of a toddler, investigators said.

Police arrived Wednesday at about 6:30 a.m. at a home on Bethune Drive in the Washington Shores neighborhood.

Police officers blocked off the street as crime scene investigators arrived. 

A woman at the scene who appeared to be in distress was taken away in an ambulance.

“She was just pacing back and forth. Just shocked,” said resident Kenneth Randall. 

Police have not said what happened, how the child died or if the death is suspicious. 

Other Florida stories:

Florida college student saves mom's life before dying in crash

Missing Florida toddler found dead in backyard canal

Girl says man tried to kidnap her while walking near Mount Dora

Police investigate toddler's death in Orlando home

Orlando police are investigating the death of a toddler, investigators said.

Police arrived Wednesday at about 6:30 a.m. at a home on Bethune Drive in the Washington Shores neighborhood.

Police officers blocked off the street as crime scene investigators arrived. 

A woman at the scene who appeared to be in distress was taken away in an ambulance.

“She was just pacing back and forth. Just shocked,” said resident Kenneth Randall. 

Police have not said what happened, how the child died or if the death is suspicious. 

Other Florida stories:

Florida college student saves mom's life before dying in crash

Missing Florida toddler found dead in backyard canal

Girl says man tried to kidnap her while walking near Mount Dora

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