Villager told he cannot plant palm tree to replace oak tree he wants cut down

A Village of Calumet Grove man has been granted permission to cut down an oak tree in his yard, but only if he replaces it with another canopy tree.

John Sopczyk, who lives at 16696 SE 78th Live Oak Ave. in the Village of Calumet Grove, made the request for the tree removal Wednesday morning before the Architectural Review Committee. He described the tree as “dying.” He offered to replace the 12-inch caliper tree with a palm tree.

An arborist’s report indicated the tree is not diseased and not a safety concern.

“I see a photo from March 7 and I see a live, healthy tree,” said ARC member Joel Best, as he looked at a photo that accompanied Sopczyk’s application.

A March 7 photo of a tree a homeowner wants to remove in the Village of Calumet Grove.

Sopczyk said the photo was not an accurate representation of the tree as it appears today.

“It’s all dead and the leaves are brown,” he told the committee, which is made up entirely of Villages volunteers.

ARC member Daniel Warren said if the tree has worsened since March, a new picture of the tree “would have helped” to support Sopczyk’s case.

Sopczyk was asked several times if he would replant another suitable canopy tree and each time he responded he was only willing to plant a palm tree as a replacement.

ARC member Cary Sternberg made a motion to allow Sopczyk to remove the tree, but only if he plants a replacement canopy tree. The ARC voted in favor of the motion.

The ARC’s list of recommended replacement trees includes:

• Live Oak

• Shumard Oak

• Bald Cypress

• Winged Elm

• Little Jem Magnolia

• Southern Magnolia

• Florida Maple

• Sycamore

• River Birch

• Nelle Stevens Holly

• East Palatka Holly

• Savannah Holly

• Crepe Myrtle

The ARC may lose its authority over tree removal, thanks to a bill passed by the state legislature. The tree removal bill, which would give Florida homeowners the right to remove trees without having to obtain approval permission or permits from local government, is on the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A Lady Lake commissioner spoke out earlier this week about the potential loss of local control when it comes to tree removal.