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Longboat Key Thursday, Apr. 23, 2009 11 years ago

Tree code issues still simmering

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

A year after the Town 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 Longboat
Planning and Zoning Board will review the controversial code in the coming months.

The planning board’s subcommittee’s suggestion, presented last year by tree subcommittee Chairman Allen Hixon, called for eliminating a tree code that mandates what can and cannot be planted, monitoring a property owner’s landscape during new construction and renovation only and trusting all property owners to make the right decisions regarding their tree canopy.

At the Tuesday, April 21 Planning and Zoning Board regular meeting, Hixon said that “what sank the proposal was the way it was sold” to the commission.

“The commission was concerned with the fact that they thought we were eliminating the regulation,” Hixon said. “We didn’t do that, we just relocated it to the site-plan-approval process and made it applicable to everyone.”

Last year, the commission only offered some minor modifications to the code, but Hixon pointed out that the current code is hard to understand and is not strictly enforced because the town only has one code-enforcement officer.

Hixon also pointed out that the town’s current ordinance only applies to roughly a third of the Key, because regulation does not apply to single-family home lots, rights of way or utility easements.

“Only five permits were pulled last year for tree removal,” Hixon said. “People need to respect the code, and we need to change it so they will comply.”

Worried that a complete overhaul of the code will once again be met with disapproval from the commission, the planning board reached a consensus to allow staff to bring a revised tree code back with some minor modifications for review at its May regular meeting. The planning board also plans to compile a laundry list of further considerations for the commission’s review that the planning board believes need to be incorporated into the code to make it more modern and enforceable.

The planning board would also like to create a tree-education program to teach novice Florida homeowners what native trees thrive on the Key and what is considered nuisance vegetation.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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