On January 9, trimmers for a general contractor mistakenly cut and removed trees along the club’s border with a homeowner’s property, which the club claimed caused $500,000 worth of damage. The architectural commission approved a 6-foot-tall, 1,073-linear-foot-long black chain link fence along the club’s north property line as a result, and lawsuits related to the incident are ongoing.
A “chainsaw massacre” along the Palm Beach Country Club’s northern property line has led the Architectural Commission to grant the club’s request for a permanent fence, the Palm Beach (Fla.) Daily News reported.
The commission voted 4-3 to approve a 6-foot-tall, 1,073-linear-foot-long black chain link fence along the club’s north property line. The board denied similar plans two years ago, but a botched landscaping job last month gave the club the push it needed to be successful this time, the Daily News reported.
“We’ve had four incidents since 2011,” said Robert Fromer, club president. “This last one, this chainsaw massacre, is beyond control. This fence is critical. There’s nothing to stop the next owners from doing it, and we just have to have this fence for our protection.”
Fromer is referring to a January 9 incident when trimmers for general contractor Cosmo DeVellis mistakenly cut and removed country club trees along the club’s border with John and Sherri Grace’s property. The club filed a police report documenting $500,000 worth of damage, the Daily News reported.
John Grace apologized for the incident to the Town Council at a meeting earlier this month when the club received approval to install a temporary 20-foot fence. Grace said he was “shocked” to come back from out-of-town visits and see what had happened to his backyard. He hired DeVellis, who had done work for the home’s previous owner, to remove some vegetation crowding his back patio, the Daily News reported.
While the trimmers were on site, workers for a cable company were trying to run a new cable line in the easement between Grace’s property and the golf course and were having trouble because of overgrown vegetation. Steve Johnson, owner of USA Tree Trimming and Landscaping, instructed his workers to clean up the easement. When security for the golf course told Johnson he was on private property, he immediately stopped and offered to replant the area at his expense, the Daily News reported.
“It’s terrible,” Grace told the Town Council at its February 11 meeting. “What they did was a far cry from what would have been necessary from the telephone line installer.”
In addition to the tree-trimming incident, Fromer said the club has had issues with other adjacent property owners cutting trees to enhance their views and their homes’ sales potential. Neighbors created paths to the golf course, installed lights and set up sprinkler systems, which in that case flooded the course. Snapping turtles and swans also have escaped from the course into neighbors’ yards, the Daily News reported.
Attorney Maura Ziska said the fence also is necessary for liability reasons. “It’s important to secure the club from people or animals,” she said. “They could be held liable if someone comes on and drowns.”
Landscaping won’t happen anytime soon because of a lawsuit involving Grace, Fromer said. The club proposed a settlement, which Grace agreed to pay, but now his insurance company is suing the contractor and the case is ongoing, the Daily News reported.
Homeowner Bruce McAllister said the issue should be resolved in a neighborly fashion, not through a “hostile” fence. “On this island, in this town, there are no fences between the golf courses and single-family residences,” he said. “Bahama Lane is not occupied by enemies of the Palm Beach Country Club. We seek to be good neighbors. We seek harmony in our neighborhood.”
Resident Steven Chang said he is considering appealing the commission’s decision to approve the “unsightly fence” to the Town Council. “To build this fence I think is really taking a shotgun approach and is not the right remedy to correct it,” he said.
Grace was not at Wednesday’s meeting, but he told the Town Council earlier this month that he favored a “vegetation solution,” adding that, “The fix of this is not through lawyers, it’s through landscapers.”
The commission considered approving a 4-foot fence instead, but that motion failed with some members stating a shorter fence wouldn’t keep people out. Fromer also noted a berm on the course that will make the fence seem 4-feet high. The fence also will be screened on both sides, the Daily News reported.