Amended tree ordinance now in effect

Grand Tree Speakers
Arborist Lucas Davis, right, assisted city commissioners in addressing property owner Ronnie Leto's request to remove a grand tree. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria Commissioners recently adopted an amended tree ordinance, then promptly applied it when approving two grand tree removal requests previously denied by Public Works Manager Dean Jones.

In attempt to protect the city’s shrinking tree canopy, the ordinance adopted on June 14 allows those who wish to remove a grand tree to donate to the city’s tree replacement fund instead of or in addition to planting replacement trees on their own property. Donated funds will be used to plant trees at city parks or on other city properties.

Grand Tree Removal
Anna Maria Commissioners recently approved the removal of this grand tree at 319 Hardin Ave. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

During that meeting, property owner Ronnie Leto agreed to donate $2,500 to remove a grand tree at 319 Hardin Ave. Leto wants to remove the tree so he can install a pool in the yard. Robb Bauman agreed to donate $2,500 to remove a grand tree at 211 Oak Ave. Leto and Baumann both said new and smaller trees would also be planted on those private properties.

At the recommendation of certified botanist Lucas Davis, the amended tree ordinance removes the word “diameter” and replaces it with the word “caliper” in terms of a grand tree being defined as one that has an 8-inch caliper when measured at a height of 4.5 feet from the ground. A tree with an 8-inch caliper is approximately 24 inches in circumference, which is how the ordinance previously read.

According to both the previous and the recently amended ordinance, the removal of a grand tree requires City Commission approval. City ordinance also protects native trees.

The amended tree ordinance was inspired by a recent incident involving a property owner who removed a grand tree after the commission denied the request. As a result, that property owner was fined $5,000.

Ordinance language

“The removal, relocation, destruction of any grand tree, excluding ficus and Australian pine trees, is prohibited unless it can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the City Commission that the location of the grand tree renders the lot or parcel as non-buildable, the grand tree is a hazard or severely diseased, or denial of the removal of the grand tree will result in an extreme hardship for the property owner, as determined by the City Commission after a quasi-judicial hearing,” the tree ordinance now says.

“If the removal of a grand tree is permitted, the city commission shall have the authority to require that replacement tree or trees of a type and size specified by the commission be planted on the same lot or parcel, which will result in approximately the same amount of shade/canopy potential within one year of the time of planting as the grand tree removed.

“As to any replacement tree (or trees) on the same lot or parcel, such replacement trees must be guaranteed by the seller of the tree (or trees) for no less than one year, and properly maintained by the property owner for a period of one year, so that if after one year the replacement tree (or trees) are not in healthy condition, as determined by an arborist, such replacement tree (or trees) will be required to be replaced by other replacement tree (or trees),” the ordinance says.