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Visitors and residents enjoy the shade and ambience of the tree-lined section of Main Street. Many county commercial development sites, however, have failed to enable trees to flourish.
Siesta Key Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011 10 years ago

County official makes charge of poor follow-up on trees

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

Sarasota County does a poor job of following up on the health of trees that it requires in the landscaping of commercial development, the head of the Sustainable Sarasota Community Partnership told about 20 people attending the group’s monthly meeting Tuesday at the County Administration Building.

“We don’t go back and police it once a project is done,” Nina Powers said.

Many of the trees die, she added, and others are trimmed to make signs more visible.

A national survey, Powers said, has shown that trees normally flourish for just seven to nine years in urban development settings, unless porous concrete has been used over their root systems.

Earlier during the meeting, Powers pointed out that if impervious concrete is poured over the roots, in a parking lot, for example, the trees die because they cannot absorb the nutrients they need.

Powers said she was involved in the design of the first porous concrete parking lot in the county; it is used by the Sarasota County Fire Department and Emergency Services.

There’s no water going into the street in periods of heavy rain, because the water can seep into the ground. Furthermore, she said, the trees in that lot have not died.

County regulations call for regular surveys of the trees, Martha Horton, a retired county employee, said, because the trees should remain alive.

Before she retired in 2008, Horton reviewed landscaping plans for every commercial project submitted to the county. If she received any complaints about tree health after a project was completed, she took a code-enforcement officer with her to check out the site. In most cases, they gave property managers and owners warnings.

“Unfortunately,” Horton said, when she retired, “they didn’t replace me.”

“Honestly,” Powers told the group, “business does not like Sarasota County coming out and saying, ‘We don’t like how your place looks.’”

However, Powers noted, an abundance of trees in a commercial area prevents heavy stormwater runoff.

“All those leaves are taking up the water” during a rainfall.

Powers encouraged the attendees to participate in the Sarasota County “wiki” on the upcoming revision of the comprehensive plan. Go to the county website ( and follow directions to participate in the process.

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