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Tampa strengthens tree policy

Home builders suggest they are willing to work with the new ordinance, which limits the removal and trimming of grand trees.

By MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


TAMPA -- Home builders in Tampa have criticized the city's new direction on tree removal and branch trimming. But as the reality set in Thursday that the policy was about to become law, a representative said they would be willing to give the regulations a chance.

Moments before the Tampa City Council voted unanimously Thursday to adopt amendments to the existing ordinance, an attorney representing the Builders Association of Greater Tampa said home builders will keep an open mind toward the ordinance.

"I don't think we support it," attorney John Grandoff said. "But we will work within the bounds of the ordinance. I think it is a little over-restrictive on property rights, but we will learn to work with it."

The second reading puts the ordinance on the books. Now, those wishing to remove grand trees -- those generally more than 36 inches in diameter and more than 30 feet tall -- will need an administrative permit unless the city's urban forester determines that the condition of the tree poses a hazard.

The amendments also change the rules for trimming grand trees, requiring permits and raising standards to match national regulations.

"So trimming (now) has to be done by someone with credentials," said council member Linda Saul Sena. "A Saturday night hacker who just has a chain saw can do irreparable harm to a grand tree."

The legislation comes after an uproar from several South Tampa residents over a controversial shearing of a huge live oak last June on Chapin Avene, near Bayshore Boulevard.

When the ordinance first reached the City Council on March 22, a few developers and home builders complained that the amendments were a knee-jerk reaction to a few incidents and that the regulations would make the process more bureaucratic.

But on Thursday, they seemed eager to extend an olive branch.

"There are still some concerns as far as how the ordinance will work," said Joseph Narkiewicz, vice president of the Builders Association of Greater Tampa.

"Nonetheless, we are in favor of protecting the tree canopy of the city, and we are in favor of protecting grand trees. At this point, we are looking forward to trying to work with the ordinance and trying to achieve the goals that the ordinance sets forth."

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