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Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 14, 2010 7 years ago

Subcommittee revises Longboat's tree code

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

One and done.

The town’s newly formed tree code subcommittee held one meeting Monday, April 12 before making a few changes to an ordinance that will now be reviewed by the Town Commission.

In April 2008, the commission rebuffed the three-person tree subcommittee’s proposal to incorporate what’s left of a town tree code into the town’s site-plan approval and permitting process.

The commission sent the revised ordinance back to the Planning and Zoning Board, which received approval to start a new committee this month that consisted of two commissioners and three planning board members (Commissioner Lynn Larson, Vice Mayor Jim Brown, planning board member Phineas Alpers, Subcommittee Chairwoman Pat Zunz and planning board member Al Hixon.)

The subcommittee’s suggestion presented in 2008 called for eliminating a tree code that mandates what can and cannot be planted, monitoring a property owner’s landscape during new construction or renovation construction only and then trusting all property owners to make the right decisions regarding their tree canopy.

But the commission was worried that after the site-plan process that included mandated plantings, a property owner could toss the new vegetation once he received his certificate of occupancy for a new building.

The new committee met with the hope that commissioners and board members could come up with something that all could agree upon.

In the end, the subcommittee made few changes.

The new tree code suggestions will offer protection to grand, or majestic, trees, such as old oak trees.

“We have some large trees here that are old and need to be protected,” said Brown.

The subcommittee agreed that single-family property owners are exempt from the rules of the tree code, but provisions will be put in place to preserve majestic tress on site unless the site cannot be built upon without a tree’s removal.

“If it’s our goal to protect grand trees, let’s do it island-wide,” said Zunz.

It was also suggested that the town require the removal of exotic, or nuisance, trees, such as Australian pines, on all Key properties, including single-family lots.

The tree removal fee will rise from $25 to $50.

The subcommittee also agreed to allow town planner Steve Schield to draft an educational brochure that will help property owners understand what trees are compatible with the island.

Hixon, however, was not happy with the subcommittee’s latest draft.

“Are we protecting trees or helping landowners?” Hixon asked.

The subcommittee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the Town Commission’s review at a future workshop.

Contact Kurt Schultis at [email protected].

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