Home / Government / Safety Harbor Explores Moratorium On Removing Trees

Safety Harbor Explores Moratorium On Removing Trees

More than a dozen trees at the Safety Harbor Spa have been marked for removal in order to make room for a new parking lot.
More than a dozen trees at the Safety Harbor Spa have been marked for removal in order to make room for a new parking lot.

What started out Monday night as another workshop for the Safety Harbor City Commission to redefine the city’s tree ordinance ended with officials deciding to explore a potential moratorium on cutting down trees in town.

After the commissioners spent nearly 90 minutes fine-tuning four focal points of the new ordinance, audience members were asked to wait until the start of the City Commission meeting that followed to speak about the issue.

But instead of commenting on minimum plantings and protected species, the talk quickly turned to the more than a dozen trees located on the Safety Harbor Spa property that have been earmarked for removal in order to make room for a new parking lot.

“I listen to you gentlemen say how concerned you are about the trees,” Carol Gray said, “and I’m wondering how you can be so concerned about that when I think we have a small forest over here by the Spa that’s going to be eliminated.”

“I believe as our city officials that if you wanted to save those trees, you could.”

Mayor Andy Steingold then offered an explanation.

“The City doesn’t permit the removal of trees, except for a Grand tree,” the mayor said. “The permitting is through the county.”

A tree marked for removal at the Safety Harbor Spa.
A tree marked for removal at the Safety Harbor Spa.

“We’re concerned enough that we’re trying to take a tree ordinance in-house and make it more strict in-house than the county’s ordinance,” he added.

“We’re moving forward. We’re concerned.”

Barbara Hollen-Hugg took the podium next, and the always outspoken resident called for a complete moratorium on cutting down trees in town.

“I sent an email late Friday…requesting that a moratorium be put in place to stop the cutting of all trees that have not already been permitted until the new tree ordinance is in place,” she said.

Mayor Steingold responded by listing a number of factors that could prevent such an action.

“I received the email and calls about a moratorium,” he said. “The question is, could we legally do it, are there three votes up here to put a moratorium in place…and are there any exceptions to the moratorium, such a hazardous tree?”

City Attorney Alan Zimmet explained that it would most likely take 90-120 days to get the tree ordinance finalized, and at least 60 days to get a moratorium in place.

But he said he would look into the legality of such an action if the commission wished to go in that direction

Mayor Steingold then asked his fellow commissioners how they felt about a moratorium, and two of the remaining four said they were in favor of city staff researching it further.

“I wouldn’t have any problem with Mr. Zimmet looking into it a little further,” Vice Mayor Cliff Merz said.

“I recognize that there would be a lot of hurdles,” Commissioner Andy Zodrow added, “and based on that, I guess I would go with what Commissioner Merz says – look into it and come back to us in a few weeks and we can talk about it then.”

Although Commissioner Rick Blake said he had no desire to enact a moratorium, and Commission Carlos Diaz expressed concern over penalizing homeowners who “are doing things the right way,” the consensus led to Zimmet saying he would have a report on the matter ready in time for the October 6 commission meeting.

Trees marked for removal at the Safety Harbor Spa.
Trees marked for removal at the Safety Harbor Spa.

At the conclusion of the meeting, City Manager Matt Spoor explained the situation at the spa.

He said that 14 trees have been permitted for removal so far, that five grand oaks on the site will be protected and 13 trees will be replanted.

He also at the the spa owners would be meeting with county officials again soon to discuss the possibility of removing more trees on the lot.

This information led the commissioners to direct Spoor to write a letter to the owner of the spa asking him to reconsider.

“I have no problem sending a letter to Mr. Touloumis requesting that he try to minimize the number of trees he removes,” Mayor Steingold said.

“I mean he’s going to do what he wants…but I think a letter would help.”


 Ed. Note: Commissioner Rick Blake owns the parent company of Safety Harbor Connect.


  1. I hope that those of you that are concerned will go to Trip Advisors and give your opinions
    about this place. I no longer will be supporting this establishment. They have lost my business.

  2. I have decided that I will not promote the Safety Harbor Spa to any of my friends and relatives that would usually stay there. I hope that it affects their revenue in the future for what they are doing.
    I grew up in this area in the 1950’s and 60’s and I attended the Clearwater Campus J.C. at a young age, would hang out in Tarpon Springs and we would take our prom dates and girlfriends to the Kapok Tree restaurant, for an evening of dining and later dancing. I have seen a lot of changes that have frustrated me to include the displacement of wonderful and beautiful animals that we have in our area and trees that have been cut down to make way for parking lots or big buildings. It’s sad to see this happen. Where is the social conscious and responsibility of our officials and business owners? I think that an independent Arborist that doesn’t have a self interest should take a look at the trees that are only diseased. With proper planning and guidance, the parking lot can still be filled in, and leveled with nice asphalt around the trees to look beautiful and enhance the appearance of the parking lot, thus being a win-win for everyone. Planting new trees can be costly and money that could be put to better use. After all, how would you or the tourist feel if the Safety Harbor Spa was demolished to make way for a new high rise hotel or cut down all the beautiful trees that are in Philippe Park. It would take away from the charm, character and historical value that the Safety Harbor Spa and the City of Safety Harbor currently has. See my point?
    Thank you for the opportunity to express myself.

  3.  Mr. Touloumis go ahead with your project. Safety Harbor need to get over the tree drama. Those people will not brake you if they take their business somewhere else, probably they do not support your business anyway. Expanding your paking area will make it easy for your guests. Good luck and keep bringing people to Safety Harbor. The tree lovers can move to the Amazon.

  4. It is what makes the entire city so special and unique. It is what gives it character the second you enter downtown. It is one of the few thing that makes the spa special. Personally, if the spa does this, I will cancel my long term membership. For just a parking lot? Not a chance is this “ok”.

  5. I totally agree with Gisela. Those trees ARE Safety Harbor and that corner is iconic! I love the Spa and love to entertain friends there. I understand the need to increase business, but that kind of disregard for the charm of Safety Harbor is a deal breaker for me! I could never feel the same about the Spa. Mr. Touloumis must be encouraged to understand and expand the important role he plays in designing the future of downtown Safety Harbor and its waterfront.

  6. That beautiful area in front of the Spa with the magnificent old trees is one reason why I moved to Safety Harbor. I think it gives the Spa more beauty and dignity, it shows its history, and everything possible should be done to save those trees which cannot be replaced by planting new trees. That idea is preposterous! Please postpone any decisions until the city gets in gear with new rules and regulations.

  7. If Mr. Touloumis removes all of these trees on the Spa property, he will forever change the beautiful tree canopied look of Safety Harbor. These trees have been growing here for generations and cannot be replaced with small newly planted trees. Everyone in Safety Harbor needs to contact Mr. Touloumis and tell him how outraged we will be at the loss of these grand trees. We need to tell Mr. Touloumis that if he continues with his plans to remove these grand trees, we will boycott the Spa and tell all our family and friends up north to stay somewhere else when they come to visit our area. Only economic pressure will help to stop this potential great loss for Safety Harbor.

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