Getting the axe: LCEC to cut down 14 royal palm trees
This article has been updated to correct an error.
The Lorax certainly wouldn't be happy with Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC), which might cut down 14 royal palm trees along Seaview Court in the South Seas Club East Condominium community, and many of the community's residents are unhappy with the company, too, so they've decided to follow the Lorax's lead and "speak for the trees."
Residents of South Seas Club - which is a master association comprised of four different condo associations, including South Seas Club East Condominiums - met with representatives from LCEC Tuesday morning to discuss the situation.
"This is one of the worst areas for outages on our system due to the palms growing into the power lines," Karen Ryan, LCEC public relations manager, said. "LCEC trims to improve reliability (and) we trimmed the palms on several occasions as a result of outages ... (but) the trees have grown to the point that they can no longer be trimmed away from the power lines enough to prevent future outages"
Tuesday's meeting was the first between the two entities, and served as a sort of think tank to generate solutions that are amicable to all parties.
"We talked about different solutions," David Forker, president of South Seas Club's board of directors, said, "one of which is, of course, cutting down the trees."
And although some residents believe that's the worst case scenario, citing concerns about decreased property values and negative environmental impacts, others are pining for the trees to be removed.
"It's a pretty controversial situation because some people really love the palms and some people really hate them," Forker said, "so I don't know which way it'll go...I wish I had a crystal ball to see what'll happen."
One solution for the people who really love the palms would be to put the power lines underground, but doing so would cost nearly $500,000, which would have to come out of residents' pockets.
Ryan said another solution would be to yes, cut down the trees, but replace them with "power friendly" palms that won't grow tall enough to interfere with the power lines.
LCEC doesn't care either way, Forker said; it just wants to get the job done, ideally before the summer storm season.
"They've very willing to come and meet with us again and they made it clear that they have no preferences," he said. "They told us that they have a lot of customers with above-ground wires and a lot of customers with below-ground wires, and there are pluses and minuses to both."
Forker said there's no set date for a second meeting with LCEC, but the next South Seas Club meeting is April 10.