The construction of a Tuxedo Park mansion at 3540 Woodhaven Road has drawn opposition from neighbors for its planned size, removal of trees and the height of a retaining wall. The city arborist stopped construction at the site on May 16.
Several complaints, requests for further inspection and open records requests have been made by residents in reference to the property.
Joe Bateman, a neighbor, filed an open records request with the city for the site’s building plans and was surprised at the size of the house and retaining wall.
“I will acknowledge that this makes me a hypocrite,” Joe Bateman said. “I built a big house with a retaining wall, but this is beyond what anyone could imagine.”
The owner, Christian Fletcher, declined to comment.
Fletcher bought the property and tore down an old house that sat on the site, which wasn’t a problem to the neighbors, Bateman said. Problems started a week later, when most of the trees were removed from the 4.5-acre tract.
“We wondered why they would need to mow down 4 acres for a house, and when I saw the size of the house, I realized why,” Bateman said.
Records show the developers destroyed 203 trees, replaced 68 and paid $96,360 in fees.
Mercy Sandber-Wright, a board member and former president of the Tuxedo Park Civic Association, acknowledged houses in Tuxedo Park are large, but said this house will be so much larger than others it will look out of place.
The removal of trees caused rainwater to flood the rear neighbor’s yard after a storm, Bateman said. The owner “has little to no regard for anyone around him,” Bateman said.
Bateman said he doesn’t have any information on why the stop-work order was issued, but he appreciates that someone at the city is looking into the situation.
“All I know is that it was the arborist and I wish I could shake his hand,” Bateman said.
Wright said she never saw signs posted, which would be in violation of the tree ordinance.
A sign must be posted for 10 days notifying a plan has been submitted to destroy trees. Once the permit is given preliminary approval, a second sign must be posted for five days so residents are aware of the plan and can submit an appeal if they think the plan would be in violation of the ordinance.
The developer has said signs were posted and proper permits were approved by the city.
“The clear-cutting came as a total shock,” Wright said.
The development is a part of ongoing tree loss in her neighborhood, Wright said, and it will change the whole neighborhood.
“Our area is known for its tree canopy, and little by little it is diminishing,” Wright said.
The arborist issued a stop work order, but the reason is not clear and the city has not answered questions about the property. The notice requires developers to stop all construction, tree removal and stump grinding.
A city document says the stop work order was placed by an arborist inspector at the request of David Zaparanick, the city arborist, “in order to re-review the arborist plans at City Hall.”
Councilmember Mary Norwood submitted a request to the arborist to inspect tree removal on March 14, but the arborist ruled the developers were in compliance with the tree ordinance at that time. Norwood’s office did not return an interview request in time for this article.
Brody Dernehl, a partner at the Dernehl Company, which is building the house, said he doesn’t know why the stop-work order was issued because the company received permits, paid recompense fees and had the city post signs. He said they are working with the city to determine why they are accused of violating the tree ordinance.
“We are doing everything legally,” Dernehl said.