- April 12, 2016
WINDERMERE Taylor Morrison officials have received an invitation from the Windermere Town Council to attend its May 10 meeting.
In the meantime, town residents – particularly in The Willows – have continued to inform town officials of their displeasure with what they have reported from the eastern edges of their property, which abut the Estancia – formerly Windsong – development site.
Resident Jane Guida said she already was displeased with tree burns on the property resulting in losses of habitat, as well as smoke fanning into neighboring properties.
In recent weeks, trees marked with ribbons – meaning they were to be saved – ended up being removed from the Estancia site, mere feet from the backyards of The Willows, she said. As a result, town administrators issued a stop work order.
Mayor Gary Bruhn said parties working on Estancia would be planting 20-foot to 24-foot trees with trunks of 8-to-10-inch diameters every 50 feet along the west side of a retention pond. That should result in a nearly immediate buffer and tree canopy, he said.
“The only change that I am aware of is the need for a bigger retention pond, which required additional tree removal, and I know this was a big priority for The Willows' residents, as they wanted insurance that this development would hold their own water,” Bruhn said. “The Council cannot dictate to SFWMD (South Florida Water Management District). Under state statute, they are the ultimate water authority.”
Bruhn said town officials had received information from SFWMD and Taylor Morrison, in which Taylor Morrison officials said they had tried to make the pond smaller to save trees and mitigation costs.
“Upon inspection, they were told that it had to be built as permitted, which required the trees to be removed,” Bruhn said. “Per the certified arborist, these trees will not survive with their roots that close to the pond. To summarize, the pond is being built to the original specifications required. The town did do its due diligence in stopping work until the facts could be gathered. The pond will be built to specification as required by SFWMD to ensure The Willows will not be susceptible to flooding from this property.”
Bruhn said town officials have made clear to Taylor Morrison and its subcontractors that they must immediately and directly inform the Town of Windermere of any changes or issues henceforth.
“We reiterated to them multiple times that their failure to notify the town in a timely manner has not only made the town look bad, but has contributed to misinformation and distrust – neither which is acceptable,” Bruhn said. “On a positive note, they do have a mitigation plan … and the replacement trees will be of higher quality than the laurel oaks.”
With reports continuing to come from The Willows' residents that contractors such as Providence Construction have been working outside the appointed hours, Bruhn said Taylor Morrison officials would be sure to have supervisors on site at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., to ensure work is beginning and ending at appropriate hours.
Moreover, officials have ordered the installation of four cameras to constantly capture video of the site, with no heavy equipment started before 7:30 a.m. or running past 6 p.m.
“I felt this property was strategic for the town, and if we did not control it, Orange County would,” Bruhn said. “I have no doubt that if a proposal had come to zone this commercial under Orange County, it would have been done. Why? Look across the street. It is all commercial, and the county could have easily granted a Walgreens, CVS or apartments there. Instead, we took control and it is residential with homes starting at $700,000. Your council rejected any efforts to make this a retail area.”
In recent weeks, tree burns also have occurred around a property Taylor Morrison oversees off Avalon Road in Winter Garden, near SunRidge middle and elementary schools.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected]