Residents of a quiet Florida suburban neighborhood are outraged after a construction company cut down dozens of trees on a vacant lot that is at the center of a contentious land use dispute. The Jacksonville-based home builder filed the lawsuit after being denied permission to develop the lot in April. Nassau County officials responded to the litigation by filing a motion to dismiss. The county’s Code Enforcement Board has said that it will hold a meeting in Yulee on Sept. 8 to give members of the community an opportunity to express their views.

Residents in tears

According to media reports, residents of the Flora Parke subdivision had no idea that the construction company planned to remove the trees until a work crew showed up with bulldozers and chainsaws. Neighbors were said to have sobbed as a line of trees was reduced to a pile of lumber and sawdust. Neighbors say that planning permission was refused because the lot in question is a community space and a protected wetland.

County official ignored

Residents called county officials and law enforcement as soon as they realized what was going on. A county inspector was dispatched to the scene, but his order to stop work was allegedly ignored by the construction crew. Work eventually ceased when an official stop order was issued. Local residents say that they want the construction company to be held accountable at both the state and county levels.

Remaining calm during litigation

Attorneys with experience in land use disputes may understand how emotions can run hot when bureaucratic obstacles are hindering a major project, but they could caution developers against taking steps that could inflame the situation and undermine the efforts of their lawyers. Attorneys could also point out to developers that antagonizing local residents is unlikely to improve their chances of prevailing in court.