Proposed bill gives state control over tree laws

A Sarasota law requires every tree on a property to be identified before development. City leaders want to change that.

SARASOTA, Fla. - Frustrated with local tree trimming and removal regulations? State Sen. Greg Steube has filed a bill that would take away local control and give it to state legislators.

“People's private property rights should be supreme. I don’t think individuals should be fined $16,000 for taking down a tree,” said Steube.

“We’ve got a lot of weeds some say they are trees,” said Harvey Vangroff, a Sarasota developer. He supports Steube’s bill.

   For 10 years, Vangroff says he’s tried developing an 8-acre property in the City of Sarasota north of downtown. 

“If you look around the parking lot here, none of these trees or bushes were planted. They gathered seed and were lucky enough to grow,” he says.

Vangroff wants to build 392 affordable housing units but he says the city’s tree ordinance is “overlegislated” and stands in his way.

“We have to do a survey and identify every plant on the property before we build a building, which is stupid.”

The developer estimates the survey would cost $35,000.

“If anybody looked they’d understand what we have here and not make us plant oak trees for every weed we have,” Vangeoff said.

   Steube may thinks his bill is the answer. It would strip local governments from passing tree ordinances and leave the trimming, removal and harvesting of trees up to the state.

“It’s not a one size, fits all situation,” said Jan Ahern-Koch, Sarasota city commissioner.

Ahern-Koch says Steube’s bill goes against the city's top priority of maintaining the “home rule," or local control.

She said, “We can best address local issues to improve our community. When you have an overarching one size, fits all legislation that may not apply to you, it ties your hands as a city commission. It tells the community there’s nothing I can do for you.”

Vangroff says the bill won’t help him now but if it passes he’d like to see simpler rules.

“Less rules, less laws, less to worry about.”

City commissioners appointed a seven-member Tree Advisory Committee this week to review the city’s strict tree ordinance.

 

 

 

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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