7960419488?profile=originalAustralian pines along A1A are part of Gulf Stream’s signature look. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Tim O’Meilia
    
The hammock of dense growth will remain along A1A in front of the old Spence property in Gulf Stream — noxious non-native plants included — and Australian pines will be planted to make the foliage even thicker.
    Town commissioners struck that compromise Dec. 14 between advocates of replacing the exotic plants with the town’s beloved Australian pines and nearby residents who favored keeping the natural hammock now in place.
But the plans may be scrapped if state road officials insist on an 18-foot-wide “clear zone” for driver visibility along the three-lot stretch of the new Harbor View Estates. Until recently, an 11-foot clear zone has been the standard elsewhere in Gulf Stream and along A1A. The wider zone would not leave enough room for the Australian pines. The town has appealed the right-of-way ruling.
“We want to make a statement that this is what Gulf Stream is,” said Commissioner Bob Ganger. “We intend to make Australian pines the signature tree on our A1A corridor from south to north.”
Nearby residents, including two members of the town’s Architectural Review and Planning Board, opposed the pines.
“This exercise to keep Australian pines seems almost unanimously opposed by the neighbors,” said planning board chairman Scott Morgan, who lives nearby. “The problem is it upsets the natural foliage of southern Gulf Stream.”
Australian pines have long been a favored species in the town. Noted architect Addison Mizner is widely believed to have brought the fast-growing species to the area in the 1920s.
In 1991, the town’s civic association donated $5,000 to a Save Our Trees effort. A special act of the state Legislature approved in 1996 allows the town to maintain and plant the trees along A1A between Pelican Lane and Sea Road because of their historic value to the town.
The species is among many on the list of invasive, non-native plants that must be removed under Palm Beach County regulations when a property is redeveloped. The regulations do not apply to state road right-of-way where the pines would be planted.
“Your brand is important, and, for better or worse, Australian pines are part of our brand,” Ganger said.
The town’s original plan called for 14 non-native species to be removed from the clear zone, including Brazilian peppers and tropical almonds. Other native species would replace them, along with 10 to 60 Australian pines.
Seaside Builders, which is developing the six Harbor View Estates lots, has agreed to pay for the installation. Behind the clear zone is a 10-foot buffer on private property and behind that will be planted buttonwoods and other species to block the Harbor View privacy wall along A1A.
Morgan feared that “then you’ve got trees like soldiers lined up like a military formation.”
With the commission’s unanimous approval, the exotic plants will not be removed and other new species will not be installed. The pines will be planted irregularly along the stretch to look more natural. Landscape architect Dave Bodker said the pines would grow up through the present vegetation without difficulty. The town grows its own Australian pines because they can no longer be sold by commercial nurseries.
The project could take several years if state road officials approve the clear-zone waiver from 18 to 11 feet.
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.         

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