• Joe Capozzi

Would you plant a 20-foot tree in middle of the driveway? Here's why one Lake Worth Beach man did.


Roger Bennett shakes the 20-ft. tree he says the city of Lake Worth Beach all but forced him to plant in the middle of his driveway.

WHEN NEIGHBORS AND visitors see his front yard for the first time, Roger Bennett of Lake Worth Beach gets the same incredulous question:


Why in the hell did you plant a tree in the middle of your driveway?


It’s a fair question, Bennett says, because, really, the middle of the driveway might be the most impractical place to plant a 20-foot mature silver buttonwood with branches that will eventually extend over the driveway’s two car pads.


But he says it wasn’t his idea. And while he could say the city made him do it, that wouldn’t be entirely true, either.


Bennett’s property at 126 North F St., where he converted two steel shipping containers into a beautiful two-bedroom home, is a narrow strip of land, just 25 feet wide.


You'd never be able to tell, but Roger Bennett's new house is made from two steel shipping containers.

City code requires at least one mature shade tree in the front yard of new homes in Lake Worth Beach.


Bennett, however, has no actual front yard; it is taken up by a driveway consisting of four brick pads spaced to accommodate two cars, with dirt between the pads.


While it’s true that the city allowed him to choose where to plant the tree, Bennett said he really didn’t have a choice.


Planting the tree off-center to the left or right meant losing one of the parking spaces, which he didn’t want to do.


So, he dropped the tree directly in the middle, which he knows isn’t ideal but still allows him to park two cars, barely. The tree rises from a 12-inch-wide space, its trunk and branches just five inches from each car.


“What would be ideal is if I didn't have to put a tree anywhere in the front,’’ he said.


“I'm at a disadvantage because of the shape of the lot. It’s just an example of stupid rules. I want a city that promotes green, but there should be a little leeway.’’


Mature live oak from neighboring property provides ample shade for Roger Bennett's front-yard driveway.

Now, he is worried that the tree and its roots will continue to grow and eventually bust up the driveway tracks.


Even more frustrating is the fact that Bennett’s front yard already gets plenty of shade. That’s because it is surrounded by adjacent properties with large mature trees out front, including a live oak to the north less than a foot from his property line with branches that extend over his driveway.

“The city could have said let’s count that large oak tree on your property line and be done, or they could have said plant them both in your backyard,’’ he said.


But the city didn’t say that because the city didn’t get a chance to respond to that option. Bennett said he decided not to ask for a waiver or variance because he just wanted to get final approvals for his new $250,000 home, which is painted a cheerful orange.


“I thought the neighbors would call it the ‘Orange House.’ Now it’s just ‘the house with that stupid tree in the driveway,’’’ he said.


“It’s easier just to follow the rules and get on with it, and I just wanted it done’’ he said.


There's less than one foot of clearance from the tree trunk to the each side of the cars.

In the grand scheme of things, having a tree in the middle of the driveway is not the end of the world. But it does require careful aim when sitting behind the wheel of a car.


Bennett is worried visitors not used to seeing a tree in the middle of a driveway might not be so careful. He stumbled on a possible solution the first week in December when he decorated the tree with white holiday lights.


“I’ll probably just leave them on for good,'' he said. "It's like a beacon.''

As Bennett stood in his driveway talking to a reporter, neighbor Preston Kuhlman strolled by with his dog.


“A tree in the middle of the driveway?’’ Kulhman said. “Why would you consider putting a freaking tree in the middle of the driveway?’’


Bennett just shook his head and laughed.


Holiday lights double as safety beacon on tree Roger Bennett says he was forced to plant in the middle of his driveway.

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