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“Honk If You Feel Strongly About The Rights Of Property Owners”


  Tell me I am not alone.  Tell me there are others in Safety Harbor experiencing inexplicable urges to print 20 excess pages on the copier, buy wooden pencils, switch from china to paper plates and heat their home (deep into summer) with firewood.

  If you are among those suffering from similar annoying symptoms, please, on the way to vote in next month’s city election,  repeat after me: “Tree people, take a chill pill.”

  Honestly, who does not like trees?  When was the last time you heard anyone complain, “Gosh-darn trees, where’s Paul Bunyan when you need him?”

  Trees play a role in reducing erosion and moderating the climate. Trees remove carbon dioxide  from the atmosphere and store large quantities of carbon. Trees provide shade. All good things.

tree removal fine sign
Safety Harbor has implemented a tree cutting moratorium for nearly 6 months. Homeowners are at a stand still until further notice.

  They also often become diseased and dangerous,  breaking apart and crashing through the living room window — rarely at opportune times.  They do, however, make great firewood — which Safety Harbor will lead the league in producing the very next time a hurricanes blows through because so few receive care and maintenance.

  All of which means that trees, just like pretty much everything in life,  have pros and cons.

  So, will some of you quit trying to shove a scrub oak down my throat?

  Apparently not.

  As late-afternoon traffic makes its way home along Bayshore Blvd., campaign-sign waivers for Safety Harbor city commissioner candidates Andy Zodrow and Janet Hooper also push a secondary message: “Honk if you love trees.”

  Not to horn in, but here’s an idea I like better: “Honk if you’d like to see Safety Harbor’s downtown invigorated so  merchants survive and the city prospers.”

  Or “Honk if you want your promised Waterfront Park.” You know, the property that three years ago cost taxpayers $2.75 million, but (despite stated desires and a citizen-written plan to create a shore-side recreation prize) remains an unused waste.  In three years, we have progressed all the way to  debating the impact of simply allowing benches on such hallowed ground — obviously, making “sit and watch grass grow” a local recreation.

  Or “Honk if you feel strongly about the rights of property owners. Stop the effort to increase required setbacks to as much as 30 feet simply to make construction more difficult and require new homes to look like someone else believes they should.”

  It’s enough to make Euell Gibbons choke on his pinecone.

  Just like a well-worn shoe, Safety Harbor may be comfortable, but still needs to be re-soled and polished. It needs a kick-start. It needs revitalization.

  That does not mean  anyone  wants to pave paradise. It only means the city needs managing and direction. It needs care and feeding — from leadership with eyes open, not closed minds.

  Again, who does not like trees? Personally, as hobbies go, I’d rather be landscaping and digging in dirt than fishing or playing golf. Plants and flowers are a passion. Yet, for the life of me, I cannot grasp how the idea of Safety Harbor’s stagnation sounds like a good idea. Yes, appreciate our trees. Just don’t weed kill Safety Harbor’s future opportunities while doing it.

  I must, however, give it up for those who push that agenda. They have performed an Amway-level sales job on some — even if it has meant stretching the truth to a point that not even Brian Williams would report such a story.

  This, however, is not fiction: Planned, controlled growth is not evil. As a matter of fact, Safety Harbor will have no productive future without it.

  The new town homes on Second Street South are a beautiful replacement of an abandoned, falling-down, varmint-infested house. The under-construction Iron Age homes will add upscale class to a previously empty block.

  Both will bring a boost to local merchants and, with a little help, attract more businesses, which will generate more attention for Safety Harbor.

  That’s a problem?

  I’m starting to think it’s not because opponents are  green for trees. It’s because they are green with envy.

  Think about this:  It’s dinner time and the family salad needs tomatoes. In downtown Safety Harbor, you will have about as much chance to find a veggie as you will a Fifty Shades of Grey Starter Kit.

  Had you have been visiting the area 175 years ago, you could at least have picked up a grapefruit from Odette Philippe’s roadside stand, but now Safety Harbor doesn’t even have a  market.

  We’re going in the wrong direction.

  City commission candidates Joe Ayoub and Chris Logan believe planned growth is the answer. Candidates Zodrow and Hooper apparently do not and have welcomed the Tree People to set up camp in their respective ears.

  This news just in: Big development is not going to suddenly slip into town one night and steal Safety Harbor’s quaintness. Even if it wanted to, Safety Harbor never will be “a concrete jungle.” It will never be home to a Super Walmart.

  What it can be, with MANAGED GROWTH is a much more enjoyable, productive, inviting community where there will be more to do than just sit around and throw another log on the fire.     ~Mick Elliott


mick elliott - author
Safety Harbor resident blogger, Mick Elliott


  1. I am a property owner (including one mid-sized oak tree) and part time resident for 10 years. Due to my residency in another state, I am unable to vote in Florida. As a non-voter, I am perhaps not as exposed to the local politics but can offer an arm’s-length perspective.

    My father began visiting Safety Harbor in the 50’s and loved it. After checking out many areas in Florida, my wife and I discovered that my father was right and chose to purchase a modest villa here in this lovely town.

    The aspect of Safety Harbor that convinced us to invest here was its authenticity, a quality sadly missing in so much of Florida that has seen homogenized development unrolled like a rug for miles on end. Preservation and conservation have served the city well. You have a history that still lives in your homes and streets.

    “Charm,” quaintness, or whatever you want to call it “sells.” It draws people to visit and move here. It spawns and fuels small businesses. I concur with a previous poster who said there is a lot of appropriate development going on downtown and with gathering momentum.

    I jog and know your streets very well. There are houses undergoing major renovations or being built from scratch in neighborhoods all around town. Many are of significant scale but most seem to achieve a nice fit with their environment.

    There seems to be hyperbole expressed by both sides of this issue. In my opinion, however, it would be wise to err toward retaining the essential character of your city as you seek to pursue “smart development.”

  2. Thanks Desanya, I was beginning to think I was the only resident that was afraid to look at a tree without feeling guilty. After talking to many residents, many of them feel the same was we do…we all love trees but we all have property rights! Tree lovers, who are supported by Hooper and Zodrow, I’m sure when you built or bought your existing home there were trees on it that were removed to accommodate your homes, so why do you now condemn anyone that wants to remove a tree? Let’s be sensible and vote for Joe Ayoub and Chris Logan. One last thing…I want to see the waterfront park developed based on Safety Harbor residents input, not the way the existing commission (including Zodrow) decided on. We spent many workshop hours developing a plan that was agreed on 11-0 and now what do we have NOTHING! Shame on you for not listening to the voice of the Safety Harbor . Vote Ayoub and Logan so we can get back on track again.

  3. Mick,

    I feel compelled to comment after reading your last two articles. The issues you address are important to residents. Many of us are tired of the recent political shenanigans. Instead of offering informed commentary, you provide thinly-veiled political propaganda. Shame on you.

    Let me be clear – I have not yet made up my mind on this issue and have no history or ties to either “side.” I am searching for information to make an informed decision as a resident and voter. I understand that your piece is an opinion piece. However, you made no attempt to build an argument that convinces your reader of the validity of your position. Instead your article is unbalanced and you spew the same attack propaganda that we hear from the candidates. Your article makes me question your independence. If you are not independent you should disclose that fact.

    I hope that this site provides higher quality commentary in the future. And despite my displeasure with your last two articles, I will continue reading in the hope that you improve. You are a much better writer than the jerks that send three page letters to my house.

    The Bandit

    • Bandit, I’m happy to read another who thinks as I do. Unlike you, I have made up my mind about who to vote for. After speaking with both candidates Janet Hooper and Andy Zodrow at third Friday I’m convinced they are on the right track for our city. Without getting in the dirt with their detractors, I will only say that Chris L. and Joe A. are focused on developing for their benefit not the residents of Safety Harbor. In the words of our former Mayor “They’ll get used to it”. The only parallel to those words I can think is the ACA. Built on lies by our leader. I too, shame Mick and Jim B. for their denial, lies and shameless rhetoric.

  4. Two comments regarding the City Commission meeting this past Monday evening. The ” Traditional Buddhist Prayer For Peace and Harmony” invocation was wasted upon one participant in the Audience To Be Heard segment. This person had to borrow time from others because 3 minutes was not enough to attack one Commissioner and a political activist who represents a different vision for our community. We do not need this negative energy on our Code Enforcement Board.
    Secondly there was discussion about a request from another Audience to Be Heard participant who asked that certain user fees be waived by the City for non profit organizations. The Commissioners will have to make a decision about changing the fee structure. It becomes more obvious that the head of a non profit that receives benefits from the City should not serve as a Commissioner.

  5. THANK YOU MICK!!! Great post
    And for the SPA basher….I’m so tired of reading/hearing about how bad the spa is, how could they do that…Did you people actually get up and go to the spa and look at the trees after they were cut? OPEN YOUR EYES!!!! Did you see the rot and bug infestation, broken limbs from small gusts of wind, in fact look at the pictures posted here, perfect examples! Do you not realize the jobs and commerce the spa brings to Safety Harbor.. Yes boycott the spa and watch shops close and tumble weeds roll down main st! I’ve come back to my home state and local community after 24+ years of military service, I and many other “TAX PAYING” residence have spent an extensive amount of hard work, time and money to improve degraded property in this town, generating a higher base tax for city projects benefiting everyone. WE DO NOT NEED more restriction on how we cut a tree, the current laws are thorough and sufficient, allowing proper balance between nature, beauty, personal needs and development.

  6. Mick and I bought our first 2 properties 4 years ago and had several dead/diseased trees removed after our arborist stated they could not be saved. We obtained the proper permits and planted replacement trees on the list. Did we do it because we wanted to tear down the homes to build new ones??? NO – we did for the safety of people and our existing homes. They could not be saved due to age and years of neglect. Property owners have rights. Not everyone wants to tear down and build new.

    There was one tree on the border line and our arborist tried a year and at the cost of $1,000 to save it. One beautiful day with not a breath of air a huge limb broke off and missed Mick by a foot. Our 87 year old tenant saw this happen and we are thankful he was not outside. No one was hurt but we could not take a chance and had to remove that tree. So not everyone removing a tree is in it for profit! But the way you are treated if you remove a tree, you would think you just shot someone and should be in jail.
    That is why we are speaking out about our property rights. Balance is the key.

  7. I will honk for my love of trees and I will vote for Chris Logan and Joe Ayoub. Question to the So-Called Tree Huggers: How many of you currently live in a home that at one time may have had a tree or two or more on the lot prior to the home being built? Didn’t some or all of those trees have to be cut down in order to build the house? Think about it……

  8. It’s clear to me that Steingold, Zodrow, and the so-called tree-huggers behind them have hijacked our wonderful city, and are pursuing their own agenda. Let’s get rid of them (Zodrow right away; Steingold later) in favor of responsible City government. I’m voting for Ayoub and Logan.

  9. I have to disagree with you Sarah. The new homes on on 2nd are charming. Blocking a view is to be expected with growth if you don’t have a home or lot on the water. Also, the waterfront park does indeed have the money allocated and besides the residents of Safety Harbor spent many countless hours with a 11 member steering committee and a full plan was voted on 11-0. That is what all of us voted for and now a new commission, including Steingold and Zodrow are scaling it back and calling it “passive” We didn’t vote for a “passive” park so to me that is a slap in the face for everyone’s hard work, time and effort. You should read today’s Tampa Bay times. The Local section, front page is all about how St. Petersburg wants to move forward with dormant properties by taking ownership of them and selling them to investors to beautiful their city. Their mayor and commission have the right idea which shows why St. Petersburg is becoming one of the most up and coming cities to live in. It’s called planned growth. If these tree lovers lived there I’m sure they would be having a field day because a tree would be cut for planned development. Vote for Joe Ayoub and Chris Logan so we can get this city back on track .Maybe you should be the one to move someplace else, but please don’t move to St. Petersburg because you and all your friend will not be welcome there.

    • Judy,
      Did you know that St. Petersburg is one of the original “Tree Cities” and actually was one of the first cities in our area to create a Tree Protection Ordinance? They set the precedent for tree protection…And that Safety Harbor pulled some pieces from the cities in Pinellas and Hillsborough that ALREADY had tree ordinances? Safety Harbor is behind the times in creating something that most areas around us had already produced.
      AND it sounds like you need to move to St. Petersburg since you love it so much.

      Oh and y the way…St. Petersburg code and zoning require houses in like areas to take on the “history and composition and Neighborhood traditions” their words, not mine. More of their words are “Buildings are set back from the property line to allow gracious front yards and landscaping opportunities.” Try to find this in our NEW-LOGAN/AYOUB “zero line” setback codes.

  10. Safety Harbor is an enjoyable,productive and inviting community right now. I have lived here for over 20 years and it has never been as thriving nor as vibrant. But we must take care or else the hometown character will change and it will become too expensive for the average family if Domain Homes and other developers continue to gobble up small homes and replace them with the monstrosities that you seem to admire so much. My friends and I walked down 2nd Ave S and lamented how the giant structures built out to the street block the view now.
    As far as the waterfront park goes, the city doesn’t have the money to do too much and that is good as we should take our time and get it right. Most of us want an intelligent, eco-friendly passive park that will preserve and restore the natural shoreline for present and future generations. Should you not agree, move someplace that has already destroyed its waterfront. Too many of us here in Safety Harbor are Not willing to sit back and watch our beloved town get sold to the highest bidder. I am proud of people like Andy Zodrow and am glad he is on the commission representing me and other like – minded Safety Harborites.

    • I am so embarrassed by Sarah Robinson and all the new homeowners she has harassed. I apologize on her behalf.

  11. GREAT POST!!! Thank you!! Did you people actually get up and go to the spa and look at the trees after they were cut? OPEN YOUR EYES!!!! Did you see the rot and bug infestation, broken limbs from small gusts of wind, in fact look at the pictures posted here, perfect examples! Do you not realize the jobs and commerce the spa brings to Safety Harbor.. Yes boycott the spa and watch shops close and tumble weeds roll down main st! I’ve come back to my home state and local community after 24+ years of military service, I and many other “TAX PAYING” residence have spent an extensive amount of hard work, time and money to improve degraded property in this town, generating a higher base tax for city projects benefiting everyone. WE DO NOT NEED more restriction on how we cut a tree, the current laws are thorough and sufficient, allowing proper balance between nature, beauty, personal needs and development.

  12. Finally! It’s about time something is being said about Trees that was blown WAY out of proportion. The Spa got a raw deal from a group of people who do NOT speak for all of us but got the platform to do so from the city! Hopefully more will come out “We are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore!”

  13. Well written and spot on commentary on the choices facing Safety Harbor voters in the election for Commissioners. It seems to me that Hooper and Zodrow have a one theme campaign. TREES!! Heck, we all love trees but not to the detriment of other vital interests paramount to the future of beautiful Safety Harbor. I have read your Blog comments, attended the initial debate, have watched the personal attacks made on Ayoub and Logan by the avid defenders of all things green. I conclude the only sensible, rational conclusion is to vote for for a Safety Harbor that will preserve its essential character but also provide a decent measure of respect for property owners rights and a balanced perspective for progress and measured growth for the city. Let the “tree huggers” hug their own trees and let the rest of us use some common sense. Had Joe Ayoub been elected Mayor during the last election we would not be having this one issue campaign. This is an opportunity to correct a mistake and add progessive Chris Logan to the Commission as well.

  14. You are funny! But I am finding it harder and harder to laugh. I believe most reasonable citizens are sick of this! Why do we need to pay more money for a service the county performed very well for us? I have been following the tree workshops but they totally lost me when they decided to hire a full time arborist. What a waste of our taxes when we were getting this service from the county.
    And by the way – I love trees too but be reasonable!

  15. Great blog, I love your sense of humor…but honestly I am sick and tired of all these tree huggers. We DO all like trees, but not for the sake of planned development! What on earth is going on with this city that we are afraid to even look at a tree without feeling guilty??? If these tree loving people (Zodrow and Hooper love them) put all their energy into developing the waterfront park and balancing a budget maybe we will all sleep better at night. My vote is for the sensible team…Joe Ayoub and Chris Logan. Please send the tree hugger group somewhere else where they are needed, maybe the Sahara Desert!

    • Yes, you do report like Brian Williams. Nothing you said could be further from the truth! Or perhaps you believe that Joe Ayoub’s idea of having a Major Apartment Complex at the Firmenich Property, which could potentially add 450 cars into the intersection of 590 and McMullen, which was determined to be a failed intersection, be the proper direction for Safety Harbor? Nice try Brian!

      • I would rather a beautiful residential mix use complex than industrial any day of the year. At least you would know there are residents living there, giving back to the community and hopefully falling in love with the area to want to purchase a home. Oh – forgive me, most here do not want to see new homes so they would probably not feel welcome to want to purchase here. Great for St Pete, Clearwater & Dunedin; not so for us.

        • WOW…we should have let the apartments go through. Ayoub said “they would be so nice that I wouldn’t mind living there”. Once he moved in, we wouldn’t have to worry about him making any more decisions for us, because then he would be a renter and NOT allowed to represent us.

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