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Tree planting minimum for homes reduced

The number of trees required at a pair of communities is reduced after complaints by the developer.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 22, 2002

MEADOW POINTE -- Pasco County trimmed its tree planting requirements -- by 587 trees -- to the benefit of one of the county's biggest housing developers Thursday.

Don Buck, developer of Oakstead and Meadow Pointe, complained that planting all the trees demanded by county ordinance creates a sun-blotting canopy unattractive to home buyers.

After months of wrestling with the issue, Pasco's Development Review Committee, made up of the county's top administrators, waived the requirement in three largely unbuilt sections of Meadow Pointe, the best-selling Wesley Chapel development.

Buck will plant 1,100 trees among 266 homes on 130 acres in Meadow Pointe, instead of the previous requirement of 1,397 trees.

Even more onerous from Buck's point of view was Pasco's insistence he plant 649 trees on 44 luxury lots in Oakstead on 119 acres northwest of U.S. 41 and State Road 54. The deal approved at Thursday's meeting at the West Pasco Government Center cuts that number to 359.

The ordinance approved last year forced developers to plant or preserve 16 trees per acre. But developers have convinced county officials that the rule often makes little practical sense.

Buck complained that once mature, too many trees in his projects would shade his houses, killing gardens and lawns and encouraging a plague of mildew.

The trees also would crack sidewalks and impede repair crews trying to fix water, sewer, telephone and electrical lines.

Commenting on the tree reduction Thursday, County Administrator John Gallagher stressed that the break given Buck conforms to a rewrite of the tree ordinance due for County Commission approval in January.

No longer must developers adhere to the 16-tree-per-acre standard. After January, developers would plant trees based on the size of the lot, starting at two trees for the smallest yards.

In other business Thursday, the development committee tentatively rezoned 166 acres southeast of Gunn Highway and SR 54 in Odessa. Centex Homes is both developer and builder for a proposed project called Ashley Lakes.

Plans show a maximum of 550 homes, both single-family and townhomes, and up to 150,000 square feet of commercial space, which can include stores and offices.

In getting the okay from the committee Thursday, Centex attorney Jerry Figurski questioned the extent to which the county wanted developers to pay for improvements to SR 54 and Gunn Highway.

Gallagher would have none of it. "Your clients will not be able to sell anything if (home buyers) can't get in there," he told Figurski.

The rezoning needs final approval of the county commissioners, a vote scheduled no sooner than January.

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