County submits Coquina Beach tree replacement plan

County submits Coquina Beach tree replacement plan
Each red dot identifies an Australian pine to be removed. Manatee County | Submitteed

BRADENTON BEACH – Manatee County has provided the city with a landscape plan that shows where 103 new trees will be planted at Coquina Beach. The new trees will replace 103 Australian pines to be removed from the south end of the Coquina Beach parking lot.

Bradenton Beach Building Official Steve Gilbert met with county staff on Wednesday, June 26 and he now has the county’s 60 percent draft version of the county’s landscape plan.

According to the draft plan prepared by Kimley Horn and Associates, the city-required tree replacements will include 83 green buttonwoods, 10 gumbo limbos and 10 shady lady black olive trees.

“They weren’t quite finished with the plan yet. There may be some revisions still to come. The main goal was to all be on the same page and talking to each other throughout the process,” Gilbert said on Friday.

Gilbert said the receipt of the landscape plan alleviates the threat of a city-issued stop work order that could have temporarily halted the project and the tree removals.

The city’s Land Development Code (LDC) prohibits planting or replanting Australian pines and other non-native nuisance species. If existing Australian pines are removed as part of a development plan, each tree removed must be replaced with an allowed species on a one-to-one basis. City code requires the replacement trees to be at least five feet tall.

The county’s landscape plan does not include a cost estimate for the tree replacements. Gilbert said an irrigation plan is expected this week.

“The requirements of the Land Development Code are being met. Planting will be toward the end of the project after all concrete work is done and the irrigation system is installed and working,” Gilbert said.

The city commission and Gilbert discussed a potential temporary stop-work order on June 20. The commission supported the potential issuance of a stop work order if the county did not submit a landscaping plan in accordance with the LDC. That discussion took place in response to the Manatee County Commission’s 4-2 decision on June 18 to remove 97 Australian pines in addition to the six previously removed.

The approved phase one tree removals are part of the county’s two-phase Coquina Beach stormwater and drainage improvement project. The $3.1 million phase one project includes paving all unpaved access roads and parking areas in the south parking lots with pervious concrete that will allow rainwater to drain down through it.

County Commissioners Vanessa Baugh, Steve Jonsson, Misty Servia and Priscilla Trace approved the removal of the additional 97 trees. Betsy Benac and Carol Whitmore opposed the decision and Commissioner Reggie Bellamy was not present during that discussion.

County commissioners have not yet approved the plans for a second and similar phase of the project that calls for the removal of approximately 130 Australian pines from the center and northern Coquina Beach parking lots. County staff said the phase two plans could be revised to eliminate the removal of 80-90 percent of the phase two trees currently slated for removal.

According to county staff, there were 991 Australian pines on the county-owned Coquina Beach property before the tree removals began and at least 75% of those pines will remain standing after the drainage project is completed.

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