By Emily J. Minor
You’d think planting a tree would be easy. Pick the tree, dig a hole, hook up the garden hose.
But Daryl Cheifetz knows better.
Cheifetz lives on the southernmost point of Hypoluxo Island in the small enclave of wealth and beauty called Point Manalapan. She’s been there five years now and loves the intimacy of her neighborhood.
“It’s quiet. It’s beautiful. It’s serene,” she said. “And the people are fantastic.”
But there is something about coming home — driving down the winding, shady road through the Lantana portion of Hypoluxo Island and into her part of town — that bothers her.
“It looks like a landing strip,” she said. “You get to Point Manalapan and your reaction is: ‘What happened to the greenery?”
What happened is this: The part of the island just to the north of her — south of the mainland causeway and north of Point Manalapan’s guard gate — is in the town of Lantana. The homes are generally older. There are no sidewalks, so people can plant right up to the road. And Mike Greenstein, Lantana’s director of operations and also a longtime forester, directs a program that allows residents to buy a tree and have it delivered.
“I actually go and pick the tree out, because I don’t want them to get a bad tree,” he says. “Half the time, they don’t know what they want. And we tell them.”
Hypoluxo Island resident and Realtor Jennifer Spitznagel said they’ve probably planted about 75 trees since the spate of hurricanes.
“We had a lot of the old banyan trees that act like sails in the wind,” she said.
To the south of her, Cheifetz and the small committee that formed some years ago to keep things looking nice in town started window shopping.
“The town doesn’t look good,” she said. “Not only do we not have trees, but the mailboxes are broken and the telephone poles are leaning over.”
They did some driving around South Florida — actually, a lot of driving — and came up with a plan that they recently took to the Town Commission.
“Why would you not love a tree?” she says. “It’s a tree.”
The plan, though, fell flat.
The biggest sticking point? Florida Power & Light Co. insists that branches be 30 feet from their lines and the committee had fallen in love with live oaks — those big, beautiful natives that can create a canopy.
Cheifetz and the committee wanted the town to change its code to only a 10-foot clearance. She knew her pitch would be an uphill battle, but, Cheifetz said, “you never know.”
Now she does.
The proposal got a chilly reception from commissioners, who generally agreed oak trees would be too large.
Manalapan Zoning Administrator Lisa Petersen said FPL’s 30-foot rule would stand even if they attempted a fight.
“I don’t think we’d have any luck with that,” she said. “It’s FP&L.”
And Manalapan Vice Mayor Kelly Gottlieb, who also lives on the point, pretty much likes the status quo.
Sure, she loves trees. But besides the overhead lines, Gottlieb worries about water lines buried in the swales. And she’s not real keen on the idea of an oak canopy.
“I think it would look like we’re going through a tunnel,” she said.
Meanwhile, Petersen said the town is trying to come up with some guidelines on what residents could plant. Maybe a geiger tree? Or a silver buttonwood? And Cheifetz just knows the neighborhood will be more green, even if it’s later rather than sooner.
“We’re going to reconvene and see what we can propose other than the live oak,” she said. “I’m one of those people that their cup is always half-full.
“And there will be trees.”