A contractor was arrested last week in the unlawful removal of trees from a protected wetland in The Villages. However, the arrest has not made it clear who will pay for the destruction.
The damage is estimated at between $40,000 and $65,000 at the District-owned property behind pricey homes at Lake Deaton.
Contractor Jose Luis Carvajal Ibarra, 37, is facing numerous charges and remains free on $9,000 bond.
A total of 14 residences were found to be involved, 11 of the 14 had vegetation cleared by Carvajal Ibarra.
Carvajal Ibarra approached homeowners, offering to remove and cut foliage in the wetland behind their residences, charging each of the homeowners approximately $500 to more than $1,000 each.
Carvajal Ibarra had previously been arrested in 2016 on charges of possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. That same year he launched his company, Floridian Curb Appeal LLC, based in Kissimmee.
Many Villagers are wondering who will be picking up the $40,000 to $65,000 tab to fund the remediation work at Lake Deaton to bring it back into compliance with its Southwest Florida Water Management District permit. It is not known whether Carvajal Ibarra has the financial resources to pay for the work.
The damaged property is located in Community Development District 10. Because CDD 10 is part of the Project Wide Advisory Committee it would be cushioned from the potential financial blow thanks to the fact that Community Development Districts south of County Road 466 share in infrastructure expenses. PWAC members have made it clear that they do not want to pick up the tab for the work. PWAC is funded by maintenance assessment fees paid by residents.
Last week, PWAC Vice Chairman Dennis Hayes reminded his fellow committee members that public pressure had been instrumental in a similar situation in which trees were illegally cleared in late 2014 in the Village of Bridgeport at Lake Miona. Original estimates for remediation of the area came in at nearly $50,000. There were no arrests in the case, but public outcry was sufficient enough to prompt unnamed residents of Bridgeport at Lake Miona, represented by a law firm, to offer up a $25,788 check to begin the restoration process. The group called itself the “Friends of Lake Miona.”
In the Lake Deaton case, residents told investigators that Carvajal Ibarra provided everyone with reassurance of his work’s legality. He led them to believe he had prior permission from The Villages to conduct the clearing.