Subject:     Re: Tree Removal Status
Date:     Thu, 06 Nov 2014 17:55:49 -0500
To:     Ronald Ramsingh <rramsing@keywestcity.com>, sdsmith@keywestcity.com, Karen DeMaria <kdemaria@cityofkeywest-fl.gov>


Ron,

That was not the response I was expecting. I thought we were making progress towards coming to a mutually agreeable solution.

For the record, let's review:

- At first, I brought the issue of the tree commission's possible negligence and City of Key West's potential liability to your attention. To paraphrase your initial response, you wrote "Go ahead a sue us. We are a municipality and according to Florida state law, we can do whatever we want with impunity."
- Next, I tried to find immediate solutions to the issue. I produced unequivocal photographic evidence of how the trees were either disease ridden or so close to the building (17 inches) that they were certain to either catastrophically fail or otherwise cause damage to the immediate structure(s) in any extreme weather situation.
- Finally, I showed that there is the distinct possibility of negative bias by one of the two tree commissioners who voted against the initial application. Kent Ducote should have recused himself, but didn't.

Since you have now made it clear that neither you nor Karen will no longer respond to any of my correspondence, I will now post them, together with documentation from the tree commission hearing and our prior email correspondence, on a new database driven, content management blog which I will build on the http:/www.CityKeyWest.com URL. You can follow everything there. The site should be ready within a week.

Once all of that is complete, I will speak at a City Commission meeting to bring the mayor, city manager and commissioners up to date on this matter.

Best regards

Subject: RE: Tree Removal Status
Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2014 15:41:14 -0500
From: Ronald Ramsingh <rramsing@keywestcity.com>

There will be no further communications on this matter from Karen or me. Please refer to the ordinances for any possible remedy that you are seeking.

Thanks,

Ron Ramsingh

Sent: Thursday, November 06, 2014 2:48 PM
To: Karen DeMaria; sdsmith@keywestcity.com; Ronald Ramsingh
Subject: Re: Tree Removal Status

At this point, it only seems that I am piling on, but another reason the application should have never been denied as submitted is that Kent Ducote should have recused himself from the entire matter. His was one of the two no votes.

Less than two years ago, Kent and I were involved in a joint business partnership at Doug Mayberry Real Estate. The deal was that I would provide him with leads from my website, and we would split the commissions that were generated from the subsequent sales. That didn’t work out well at all. Not a single sale resulted from the several hundred leads I provided. I was very disappointed in the often slow and questionable manner in which Kent followed-up on the leads, and I made that clear to everyone. As such, we didn’t end the partnership on a positive note.

With Kent removed from the voting, a quoram would not be present, and a vote would have never occurred.

On 11/6/2014 11:54 AM:

Here is a link to a Google directory containing several photos that show the current tree conditions:

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B6CIxVRXBk88Z2F1dkY0NW9YZkU&usp=sharing

Note how the root structure for Tree #2 is compromised and how it leans significantly to the right.

Note how Tree #3 has significant rot and termite/beetle damage to the trunk and root structure.

Note how Tree #4 has significant trunk damage.

On 11/5/2014 5:03 PM:

Karen,

We will need to agree to disagree about your onsite comments. You were sick that day, and told me that you should have stayed home. Perhaps, that had something to do with our different recollections.

More importantly, I was finally able to remove the decking and framing lumber that surrounded the trees between the houses. I found that two of those trees were damaged from 10+ years of direct contact to 2×4′s. Their trunks are diseased, termite/beetle ridden and rotted. In short, they are unequivocally beyond saving. I will send you photos in separate emails, but I’m sure you will want to see them in person for yourself.

The third tree between the houses has a defective root structure. That is also something you will also certainly need to see.

Finally, I measured the important dimensions for the tree in the front yard. Its 5 inch trunk is only 17 inches from the side of the building, and the roof overhang and gutter directly above it protrudes 30 inches from the main structure. In other words, that tree will need to bend more than a foot to the west before even the most straight line portion of it clears the building. That is simply not something that can be managed with trimming.

When is a good time for you to come by? I will be there every day through the 15th working on miscellaneous projects.

Best regards

On 11/5/2014 8:07 AM, Karen DeMaria wrote:

A copy of everything that was submitted for review to the Tree Commissioners is available for viewing on the City of Key West website. A letter that was sent to you prior to the meeting gave the exact link to find this information (http://keywest.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx). Your letter was included in this information.

You are mistaken as to my comments on site. I did take photos and acknowledge your comments regarding the closeness of the trees to the house. While I did see the potential for wanting the Green Buttonwood removed, I thought the pigeon plums could be trimmed to reduced potential impacts.

The Tree Commission meetings are audio taped. You can request a copy of the audio from Jo Bennett, my assistant. I have copied her in this e-mail or you may call her at 305-809-3723.

The Tree Commission voted twice on your application. The first motion to allow you to remove all four trees failed by a 2 to 2 vote. The second motion to allow for the removal of the green buttonwood and trimming of the pigeon plum trees passed by a vote of 4 to 0.

Sincerely,
Karen DeMaria

Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2014 8:08 PM
To: Ronald Ramsingh; sdsmith@keywestcity.com; Karen DeMaria
Subject: Re: Tree Removal Status

Hello Ron, Shawn and Karen,

Before we waste too much time and energy going back and forth with emails and such, perhaps, it would be best to just sit down together and discuss a solution to all of this.

When Karen visited the site to observe and measure the trees, she personally stated to me that three of them certainly merited removal (due to their immediate proximity to the house), and only a single tree was questionable. Was any of that stated during the tree commission meeting? I have a 4 month old baby, and I was unable to attend the last meeting because I needed to babysit him at the last minute. If her observations were not entered into the official record, then why not? How could it be possible that such important statements of fact were not made when the tree commissioners met? Furthermore, did any of the tree commissioners actually acknowledge reading my letter in which I unequivocally stated the need for the trees’ removal? Was that read into the public record? Is there a complete transcript or video of the meeting available for me to review?

Here is a solution that I would like to propose: Let me make a presentation at the next tree commission in which I will show accurate photos and measurements which depict the reasons these trees need to be removed. I sincerely believe that if the tree commission members are completely informed, then they will agree with my position.

The bottom line, is that we can all certainly make legitimate cases to support our positions, but is it really going to be worth it in the end? How much time and money is this going to cost? Is this really how we want to spend our futures? Let’s work out a solution now before it becomes a major problem for everyone.

Best regards

——– Original Message ——–

Subject:

Re: Tree Removal Status

Date:

Tue, 04 Nov 2014 19:42:23 -0500
Ronald Ramsingh <rramsing@keywestcity.com>, sdsmith@keywestcity.com

Hello Ron,

Thank you for clarifying your earlier statement. After writing it, you must have realized that you had exposed the city to even more liability than in my initial contact.

You need to remember that your ultimate client is not the Tree Commission but the Key West taxpayer. What is in their best interest? In this case, it would certainly be best to avoid any possibility of future litigation. Check my background. Within the past year, I won a legal battle against a major international corporation. Despite all odds, I was able to frame a coherent case, and we ultimately settled out of court, but there is no doubt that it was a significant victory for me.

With that said, I do not make idle threats to bureaucratic government employees who are only following through on decisions that were made outside of their control. I will guarantee, beyond any doubt, to you and any other interested parties, that when extreme weather does hit Key West, and when the trees that the Tree Commission refused to allow us to remove do cause damage to our property (be it as little as a scratch in the paint), then I will avail myself to whatever means necessary to hold the City of Key West accountable for the negligence of its politically appointed committee representatives who willingly disregarded the “Reasonable Person” standard when they refused to allow us to proactively protect our personal property. When I win that case, it will not only open the floodgates for our own compensation, but also to all others who have been similarly harmed by the often misinformed and capricious decisions of not only the Tree Commission, but also from any of the other myriad of City of Key West commission entities.

Best regards

On 11/4/2014 11:29 AM, Ronald Ramsingh wrote:

Perhaps I could have chosen my words more carefully. Any damage to your home would be very unfortunate and certainly no one in city government would want to see to yours, or any resident€™s home damaged in any way. That being said, quasi-judicial decisions of boards such as the tree commission enjoy a certain level of protection, provided that the decision was reached using the ordinances that govern their decision making process. I felt the need to respond because your email sounded like you were considering legal action against the city if such an unfortunate event and resulting damage were to occur. Certainly I would implore you to seek your own legal advice, but as the attorney who would be responsible for such a legal matter, and as one who has successfully defended the city and this commission on matters such as these numerous times in the past, I just thought that I would share my thoughts on the matter and suggest that you explore any appellate remedies that may be available to you in order to have a proper forum, rather than what can reasonable be perceived as thinly veiled threats to staff, who do not make the decisions on applications to your dismay.

Kind Regards,

Ron Ramsingh

Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2014 10:58 AM
To: Ronald Ramsingh
Subject: Re: Tree Removal Status

Thanks for the reply. I suppose we will see. As a Key West taxpayer, however, I don’t see why the city would even want to take the risk. Can you think of a single suit, of any sort, in recent history that the city has won?

On 11/4/2014 10:39 AM, Ronald Ramsingh wrote:

It is my responsibility to insulate the tree commission from the liabilities that you perceive. Given the extraordinary levels of immunity that municipalities enjoy in potential matters such as yours, I am not concerned. However, you may want to explore your appellate options, if they are so available to you.

Kind Regards,

Ron Ramsingh

Asst. City Attorney

From: Karen DeMaria [mailto:kdemaria@cityofkeywest-fl.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2014 9:54 AM
To: Shawn Smith; Ronald Ramsingh
Subject: FW: Tree Removal Status

Ron:

Do you want to respond to this or should I? Yes, the permit to remove all of the trees was denied. A permit was issued to removed one buttonwood. The board verbally recommended trimming the other trees.

Sincerely,

Karen

Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2014 9:32 AM
To: Karen DeMaria; sdsmith@keywestcity.com
Subject: Tree Removal Status

Hello Karen,

I heard that despite my letter from the 2nd of October (see below), which explicitly stated that removal of the trees at was to mitigate the potential for property damage, the request was denied for 3 of the 4 trees. Is that correct?

You and the tree commission members should speak with the city attorney about the exposure the city could face for ordinary, if not gross, negligence as a direct result of the tree commission’s decision. Any reasonable person would immediately recognize that 30 foot tall trees that have only a 6 inch diameter trunk will violently sway back and forth during extreme weather and probably destroy whatever they encounter. In our case, all of the trees will certainly collide with the house that is less than 3 feet away.

If the tree commission intends to stand by its decision, then I will have the single tree removed and the remainder trimmed to the maximum extent allowed; however, when the inevitable damage does occur, the city needs to be aware that it has assumed a high degree of both culpability and responsibility by refusing to allow our reasonable and prudent request.

I believe that if this application was discussed again at the upcoming tree commission meeting, and all the facts, to include the city’s liability, were clearly presented, then the commission would vote to have all 4 trees removed, and the issue would be resolved.

Best regards

To: kdemaria@cityofkeywest-fl.gov
Subject: Tree Removal Comments
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2014 10:18:32 -0400

Dear Karen and Members of the Tree Commission,

I would like to address the reasons that I want to remove four trees from the property at Street in Key West.

As you can see from the photos that Karen took during her recent visit, all of the trees are prohibitively close to the building structure. At a minimum, every one of them currently brushes against the house, and one of them has already caused significant physical damage to the roof.

My family has lived in South Florida since the early 1930′s, and we have gone through dozens of hurricanes. Three of my family’s homes were almost completely destroyed in Hurricane Andrew. One was in Homestead, another just South of Metro Zoo and a third less than a mile away from Country Walk. Two of those homes lost their roofs after similar, supposedly “safe” trees crashed repeatedly against them in the 140+mph winds. In short, we are as close to first-hand experts as one will find when it comes to the dangers of having trees, of any size, within the immediate striking distance of a structure.

Karen mentioned that the trees are probably close to the limit of their height, but annual trimming will most likely only serve to increase the density of growth and add more weight and material higher up and at the exact areas which will cause the most damage. There is no doubt that, if left in place, when a Category Two or greater storm hits Key West, every one of these trees will crash against the building sides and roof. That will certainly cause damage to the home’s structural integrity and perhaps lead to catastrophic roof failure and total loss.

The bottom line is that these trees should have never been planted where they are in the first place. It was an action obviously taken by someone who had never before lived in the tropics and without the vision to foresee the current potential for damage.

Best regards