Mangroves divide Holmes Beach commissioners

Holmes Beach mangroves
A strip 25 feet long of city-owned mangroves caused a divide between commissioners over who should maintain the trees. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Now that the boat canopies are down, a new agreement with Westbay Point and Moorings concerning mangroves is being considered.

During public comment at an Oct. 10 meeting, property manager Robert Glynn asked commissioners to consider allowing the condominium association to trim city-owned mangroves. The mangroves in question border the Westbay property by the 63rd Street public boat ramp. City mangroves occupy about 25 feet of the 250-foot mangrove border on Watson’s Bayou.

Glynn said he “wants things to go back to normal” between the association and the city. Part of that “normal” is the city continuing to allow Glynn and his contractors to regularly cut the trees.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff said for commissioners to accept the offer, a formal agreement needs to be made between the association and the city. The agreement covers the city in case of an accident on the municipality’s property.

Commissioner Carol Soustek said she’s concerned about the liability. Another concern is the precedent set by allowing someone else to maintain city property.

“I think our city crew could take care of it,” she said. Public Works employees trim mangroves on city-owned property elsewhere in Holmes Beach.

Glynn argues the condominium association has maintained the mangroves without issue for more than 30 years.

“It’s been done before,” Commissioner Marvin Grossman said. “I think the city attorney is competent enough to draw up an agreement that will protect the city.” He worries it may cost more for the city to maintain the mangroves than to reach an agreement with the neighboring property.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to have Petruff draw up an agreement for consideration. Commissioner Pat Morton and Soustek dissented.

The mangroves have been a cause of conflict between the city and the condominium association. Previously, Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer has brought the trimming of the trees to the commission’s attention. His concern is the height to which the trees are cut.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, mangroves can be trimmed to six feet tall. However, that depends on the type of mangrove and the previous configuration of the foliage canopy for it to be legal. As of Oct. 13, the city-owned mangroves are about eight feet tall. Some trees are higher due to new growth. According to Glynn, the trees are typically “groomed” in the first few months of the year.