SEAGROVE, Fla. (WMBB)–A small beach town known for its live oak trees may soon be known for its lack of shade. Seagrove, located off of 30A, is a quiet place that is now facing an environmental controversy. Residents are speaking out after a building developer tore several trees down without a permit.
“This is Seagrove. When you think about how Seagrove got its name, this is what it’s known for,” said Molly Caplenor, a Runsup employee.
All but one oak tree was torn down on Monday in the Seagrove shops area off of Gardenia Street.
“It was devastating to see that all of it was gone in the blink of an eye,” Caplenor said.
A developer in Walton County recently acquired the land with plans to knock down the businesses and build houses. But Caplenor says that work wasn’t supposed to start just yet.
“We are still conducting business through the entire summer through the end of August so we did not know the trees were gonna be the first to go,” Caplenor said.
The clearing of the trees also had residual effects.
“A water line had been hit, internet lines were cut down,” Caplenor said.
After the water went out, Caplenor says the nearby hair salon had to send clients home with product still in their hair which in turn impacted their operations.
Seagrove residents and business owners reached out to Walton County. They later learned the developer did not have a permit to remove the trees in the first place. He did have a permit to build though.
“Code Enforcement got with the planning department, checked the permits, and once they figured out what it was, they went down and put a stop-work order on that,” said Louis Svehla, the Walton County Public Information Manager.
Svehla says if the developer wants to continue removing the trees, he must acquire a permit to do so. He also says Code Enforcement will continue to keep an eye on the situation.
But residents say the damage is done.
“They bring a beautiful canopy to the whole area and the thought of someone tearing it down just to build houses is crazy to me,” said Theressa Johnson, an employee of Cowgirl Kitchen in Seagrove.
Neighbors in the area say they’re not against new development but want to ensure the area’s environment is being preserved.