By Tim O’Meilia
Two more homes to be sliced from the old Spence estate — a Bermuda home with black shutters and a Colonial West Indies house with a charcoal tile roof — were approved unanimously by the Gulf Stream Town Commission Nov. 9, not that anyone cared much about the architectural style.
Instead, the focus was on podocarpus hedges, buttonwood trees and buffer zones between established Hidden Harbour homeowners and the new Harbour View Estates development planned for the six-acre former Spence property along North Ocean Boulevard.
Developer Tom Laudani agreed to deed restrictions that would require that his lush landscape plans be maintained by future owners of the two lots on the south and north ends of the subdivision. A previously approved interior lot also was included.
Laudani also agreed to erect green construction fencing during the estimated 10 months it will take for him to build the first three homes in the subdivision.
Although a 15-foot buffer zone of established trees and vegetation along Hidden Harbour Drive remains, each lot behind the buffer will include a retaining wall, podocarpus hedges, buttonwood trees and other vegetation to screen the view of residents on the other side of the street.
Landscape architect Dave Bodker said 19 trees and various native shrubs on the south side of Lot 4 along the drive would shield residents.
Nearby residents Nancy Tuohy and Lisa Morgan complained that construction work was still visible and a historic banyan tree had not been replaced. Although Laudani apologized for removing the banyan, he said it was not within the 15-foot canopy that the commission required he keep.
Morgan also said neighbors were not happy with the choice of plants. “Their concern is it’s all the same, buttonwood trees and podocarpus.”
Hidden Harbour resident Martin O’Boyle complained that Laudani had not lived up to a private agreement between his Seaside Builders and the neighborhood. O’Boyle has asked the town to intervene to settle the dispute over the removal of the banyan tree. He left the meeting before his complaint was considered.
Architect Richard Jones tried to allay fears that the new homes would appear to be part of a planned community. “There is nothing cookie-cutter about the design and details of these homes,” he said.
Lot 4 on the south end will be a Bermuda design with black shutters and railings, a balcony, four different elevations, a courtyard, a three-car garage, pool and a carriage house.
Lot 6 on the north end will be a partial two-story Colonial West Indies style with a charcoal concrete tile roof, a two-car garage and pool. Both houses are larger than 8,600 square feet.
In other business: Commissioners postponed a decision until next month on whether to remove other invasive species of trees along North Ocean in front of the Harbor View Estates development and replace them with Australian pines.
A 16-year-old act of the Florida Legislature allows Gulf Stream to maintain and plant Australian pines along State Road A1A between Sea Road and Pelican Lane because of their historical value to the town, although the pines are considered an invasive species to be eradicated.
Because the area is being redeveloped, non-native species must be removed by state law. Town Manager William Thrasher has proposed removing five Brazilian peppers and six almond trees along the west side of A1A and replacing them with 40 to 60 Australian pines.
Some town residents have objected by letter to plans to reduce the hammock by removing the non-native plants. The town commission will meet jointly with the town’s Architectural Review and Planning Board on Dec. 14.
Town Commissioner Bob Ganger said planting the Australian pines would retain the current appearance. “If it still retains that look, we can have our cake and eat it, too,” he said.