Korean War Veteran fights to save his trees from road project

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) -- A Putnam county Korean war veteran is going to battle one more time. He is fighting to save the oak trees he and his wife planted more than 20 years ago.

Here's why county commissioners say the trees must come down.

Tom Lazzaro lives in a quiet community with dirt roads. Those roads 6 years ago were turned over to the county by the Homeowners Association and are now set to be paved. However, the trees Lazzaro and his late wife planted near the road so many years ago are technically on the county's property and in the way of where the road is set to be built.

"There's no way to save them they're gone and they've made that very explicit to me." Tom Lazzaro says he wants to save the oak trees and azaleas on the edge of his property because they remind him of his wife Joan who recently passed away. "I couldn't put an azalea in until she approved it, they had to be certain colors in each box and there were 5 in each box and each azalea had to be a different color."

Putnam County Commissioner of District 4 Larry Harvey explained why the trees can't e saved. "These trees are not that far off their property line these people just misinterpreted their property line and had they gone back another foot or foot and a half that wouldn't be an issue today, we wouldn't be out here."

Now to make sure the newly paved roads are up to FDOT standards the trees and azaleas need to be removed to make room for a ditch.
Lazzaro said, "when you're taking down 50-foot oak trees to build a ditch that doesn't seem logical to me. In this day and age with all they have with computers, it would seem something could be moved to save these trees."

Commissioner Larry Harvey says paving the 2 and a half mile loop is something the community has wanted for years and is an opportunity to improve Putnam County's infrastructure as a whole. He has offered to not save the trees in question but possibly help plant new trees and save the azaleas.

"What the county as offered is to take some of these azaleas as the contractors pull them up, push them back on their property so they can replant them and try to get them to grow again."

Lazzaro says he hopes somebody can look at the paving plans and find a way to move the road over a few feet so the trees can stay however there isn't room to do that without cutting into somebody else's property which means the trees will have to come down. The paving project has a price tag of 3.2 million dollars and should be done by August or September.