By Bryan Boggiano
Save Our Trees has a trio of candidates hoping to unseat the current Coral Springs Improvement District Board, and residents had the chance to hear from them.
The group met on May 11 at Sartory Hall, where they discussed issues surrounding CSID’s plans to cut trees from canal rights-of-way and encouraged voting in the upcoming board election on June 19.
The three Save Our Trees candidates, Curt Tiefenbrum, Stephen Lytle, and Ben Groenevelt criticized the project on transparency, environmental degradation, and fiscal responsibility.
They face off against CSID President Martin Shank, Vice President Len Okyn, and Secretary Chuck Sierra.
Despite criticizing the project, no Save Our Trees candidates spoke negatively of the current CSID board or the district’s employees, saying they focused on preserving the vegetation.
CSID plans to cut 2,500 trees from 22 miles of canal rights-of-way that could fall into the bodies of water and cause flooding during high-wind events. They contend the project will cost $6 million and reduce hurricane and storm impacts and cleanup costs.
The project, however, garnered opposition from many in CSID’s boundaries, which encompass all of the 33071 zip code. Reasons include environmental effects, tree canopy, property aesthetics, and a lack of transparency and outreach.
While introducing the candidates, Save Our Trees volunteer John Norris said although CSID has the right to cut down trees in the canal rights-of-way, the way they approached the project was wrong.
“They didn’t listen to their constituents, they didn’t have a tree survey, they didn’t have any community input until after the fact, they don’t even know what they’re cutting down, and they’re proposing to spend $6 million of your money without any cost-benefit analysis,” he said.
Norris said many of the trees CSID would cut include native species adapted to high winds. He continued, saying that CSID is in its current situation due to a lack of maintenance since 1971. That includes not adequately dredging and restoring canal banks and failing to clear canals of aquatic weeds, invasive species, and debris.
Tiefenbrum, who has over 20 years of experience as a commercial aviation mechanic and electrical engineer, first became active in the Save Our Trees movement after he received a pamphlet from CSID in January about the project.
Since then, he has become one of the most visible faces of the Save Our Trees movement, going door-to-door in southern Coral Springs and speaking at city commission meetings.
After one of those meetings, Vice Mayor Shawn Cerra visited Tiefenbrum at his house to discuss his concerns further. That provided the seeds for Tiefenbrum’s activism.
“That was empowering. That was the root of all of this,” he said. “It just empowered me to do more, and more, and more.”
Lytle, Human Resources Association of Broward County president-elect and HR professional, brings experience as president of his homeowner’s association and the former City of Tampa Budget Advisory Committee chair.
He moved to the city late-2021 with his wife to raise their four-year-old daughter. He said the tree canopy is one factor that drew them to Coral Springs.
Removing those trees, Lytle said, would be a giant mistake.
“One bad decision can have years and decades of a detrimental impact on our communities, our property values, and wildlife,” he said. “It’s important that we all gather here together and realize that our voice in unity and being a community here is the only way to stop this project.”
Groenevelt previously served as vice present of the Wisconsin Association of Mortgage Brokers and worked in the City of Milwaukee’s budget office. Currently, he is a marketing director at Rainstar Capital Group.
He followed Tiefenbrum’s lead and became active once he discovered the impact the project could have on the city.
“If they clear-cut everything, it’s going to completely change the entire landscape,” Groenevelt said.
But, Save Our Trees volunteers, and candidates were not the only ones who opposed the project. City Commissioner Nancy Metayer Bowen and Cerra sided with Save Our Trees.
“This project, to be quite honest, doesn’t need to happen,” Metayer Bowen said. “Unfortunately, they are trying to create a situation that doesn’t exist.”
Similarly, Cerra said city management, the city commission, and the city’s legal team are all involved in trying to stop the project. One issue contributing to this opposition is the lack of permitting to remove those trees.
“We’re about supporting you guys,” he said. “Ultimately, we want a positive outcome for everyone, whatever that might be.”
Currently, only landowners get to vote in CSID elections. The amount of votes they get depends on how much land they own. If somebody owns one acre or less, they get one vote per board member. If they own two acres, they get two votes, and so on.
Voters can also voice their choices through proxy votes, where they fill out a form pledging to vote for the candidates of their choice.
For more information on voting by proxy, Save Our Trees encourages voters to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The upcoming CSID board election will occur on Mon., June 19, at Maplewood Elementary, between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.
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- A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan is pursuing his masters in geosciences at Florida International University. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.
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