Gulf Stream: Large ficus the focus of preservation effort

This sprawling ficus tree in front of the home at 3400 Polo Drive is spurring a debate about tree preservation in Gulf Stream. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Steve Plunkett

Town commissioners have sent the architects back to their drawing boards to save a towering ficus tree that helps define the charm of Polo Drive.

Kevin and Michelle Clark, who bought 3400 Polo Drive last April, two lots up from their present home, want to tear down the existing house and build a 7,406-square-foot, two-story Bermuda-style house. But the plan presented to commissioners Jan. 11 called for the ficus to be chopped down and two palm trees planted to frame the front entrance.

Commissioner Paul Lyons Jr., who moved to Polo Drive in 2007, said he frequently walks by the property and wanted the ficus preserved.

“There’s a section in the [town] code about preservation of the natural state,” Lyons said. “The ficus tree is the prominent trophy tree on Polo Drive, in my mind. And the code states that to the extent possible, practical I think it is, we should preserve them.”

Resident Cuppy Kraft agreed. “The people that are building the new houses want to … put new landscaping in so to change the feel of the town, whereas what had drawn people to Gulf Stream is really the old look of the town with the big trees. And you know, eventually they’re going to be gone,” she said.

Landscape architect Maureen Smith and home architect Carlos Linares said they would come back with a plan to keep the ficus where it is or possibly lift it to another spot in the front yard.

“We’re going to need one of those cranes for the high rises kind of thing to come in here and do that. But it could be moved to the south side,” Smith said, estimating the cost at $25,000.

Linares also will change the roof tile from gray to white to not duplicate the gray roof on the Clarks’ current home.

To keep the 3400 project moving ahead, commissioners approved permits for land clearing and demolition and granted a special exception for a 30-foot rear setback to make room for a pool and pavilion. 

In other business:

• Town Manager Greg Dunham said he and consultant Mathews Engineering would do an “alignment study” on the water main along State Road A1A before ordering a survey of the Australian pines lining the scenic highway.

• Staff attorney Trey Nazzaro told commissioners he is still working on a proposed ordinance to limit house construction times, saying rules in Broward County’s Lighthouse Point would help. Before, he was modeling his effort on town code in Palm Beach.

• Town maintenance worker Brian Dietrick told commissioners that mold in Place Au Soleil’s guardhouse is more rampant than previously thought, with wood rot inside the walls. He will return with estimates for repairs.

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