Monday, February 22, 2021
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The Villages

Officials hope Villagers will pay for unlawful tree removal at Lake Deaton

Officials are hoping Villagers will pay up for the tens of thousands of dollars in damage in the unlawful removal of trees at Lake Deaton.

“We are expecting the sheriff’s report fairly soon,” District Manager Richard Baier said Thursday.

A contractor who performed the work was arrested last week. He had solicited about a dozen homeowners on Valleybrook Way and misrepresented himself, indicating that he had permission to trim and remove trees in a protected wetland. He is the only one currently facing criminal charges.

The damage is estimated at between $40,000 and $65,000 at the District-owned property behind the pricey homes at Lake Deaton.

Baier pointed to a similar instance in late 2014 in the Village of Bridgeport at Lake Miona where trees were also unlawfully cut down. In that case, there were no arrests. Public outcry was sufficient enough to pressure 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.”

Baier said he is hoping that the Lake Deaton residents will take similar action.

There has been some concern that the Project Wide Advisory Committee, which includes community development districts south of County Road 466, could get stuck with the tab for the remediation work.

Baier said a notice has been sent to residents who live near preserves and protected wetlands, reminding them that they are not allowed to cut, prune or trim on District-owned land. Those homeowners were given that information when they purchased their homes, but because of the Lake Deaton incident, it was felt that it was a good time to remind residents to stay off the land.

“We want people to have the clearest of clear understandings about what is not permitted,” Baier said.

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