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Lawsuit Filed Against Self-Storage Expansion in Pensacola, FL, That Threatens ‘Heritage’ Tree

Update 10/27/21 – Attorney Will Dunaway has filed a civil lawsuit in Escambia County Circuit Court on behalf of Emerald Coastkeeper to block A+ Mini-Storage’s expansion, which calls for the removal of a “heritage” live oak. The organization is asking a judge to declare the site plan inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan, according to a source.

“In its most basic, the argument is that the comprehensive plan sets forth a clear goal of protecting protected trees, and certainly that's the highest standard for heritage trees,” Dunaway said. “The land development code that implements that has very specific provisions and criteria that must be proved in order to have an exception to that—to remove a protected tree or heritage oak. And we believe that we will be able to prove that those steps were not followed.”


9/22/21 – A+ Mini-Storage will be allowed to move forward with the expansion of its self-storage facility at 6155 N. Palafox after the Escambia County, Florida, Board of Adjustment voted unanimously this week to dismiss two appeals to save a “heritage” live oak and 16 other protected trees. Attorneys representing the county and landowner successfully argued the appeals didn’t establish legal standing under the jurisdiction’s Land Development Code, according to the source.

The board listened to arguments from both sides for four hours on Monday before rendering its decision. Opposition against the project remained strong until the hearing, with the online petition to save the trees garnering more than 5,400 signatures. Tree supporters also hosted vigils at the site, the source reported.


8/31/21 – A proposed expansion for a self-storage facility in Pensacola, Florida, is facing opposition because it calls for the removal of a large oak tree considered a “heritage” plant. Emerald Coastkeeper, a grassroots organization that monitors four main watersheds in the Florida Panhandle, has filed an appeal with the Escambia County Board of Adjustment (BOA) to block the addition for A+ Mini-Storage on an adjacent parcel. An online petition to save the tree has garnered more than 4,800 signatures, according to the source.

The 85-inch-diameter live oak, along with 16 other protected trees, on Palafox Street would be removed to make room for a three-story, 16,000-square-foot storage building. The plans were submitted to the county by W. M. Bell Co. of Santa Rosa County LLC, which purchased the land in April. The expansion was approved by the county’s development review committee.

The county’s tree ordinance requires developers to meet criteria to remove protected plant species. If approved, they must pay a fine and plant mitigation trees. W. M. Bell Co. paid a $24,010 fee and has agreed to plant 12 new trees on the property.

The appeal, filed by attorney Will Dunaway on behalf of Emerald Coastkeeper, states the developer hasn’t met the criteria for removal of the protected trees and that county staff violated the land-development code when it gave its approval. Horace Jones, county development services director, told the county commission that the developer met the requirements, the source reported.

A+ Mini-Storage operates a second location in downtown Pensacola. Both offer climate-controlled, drive-up and vehicle storage.

Sources:
WUWF, Appeals Dismissed in The Heritage Tree Case
Pensacola News Journal, Battle to Save 'Heritage' Tree at A+ Mini-Storage Heads to Escambia County's BOA
Pensacola News Journal, Lawsuit Filed to Halt Removal of Massive Heritage Tree at Pensacola Mini-Storage Site

TAGS: News Zoning
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