The Orange County Board of County Commissioners will vote on September 12th on changes to the county’s tree ordinance. The language is in Chapter 15, Article VIII of the code.
A finding of fact and purpose of such an ordinance is as follows: A healthy urban forest supports and improves the quality of life for businesses, property owners, residents, and visitors by enhancing our air and water quality, reducing heat, buffering noise, decreasing erosion and flooding, preventing pollution from stormwater runoff, and providing habitat for wildlife. The purpose of this article is to promote a healthy urban forest, diverse with various species and ages of native and Florida-friendly vegetation, while considering property values, the appearance of all developments, and an adequate buffer between different land uses.
We all recognize the beauty and cooling benefits of trees. I have several red maples, two live oaks, several fruit trees, numerous viburnums, liriope, knock-out roses, Hawaiian sisters, Mexican petunias, and peace lilies in my yard. I’m glad I enjoy gardening and clean-ups around the district. This is a great source of relaxation and enjoyment in life.
I also recognize that in lower-income areas, there are problems of affordability preventing proper maintenance. Unmaintained trees can cause severe damage during hurricanes. It is also important to trim trees up and hedges down per law enforcement safety standards. Nevertheless, none of us can avoid dealing with trees, it is a fact of life in Central Florida.
The county’s ordinance changes deal mainly with developing new properties. So, there should be no fear of over-regulation and these updated ordinances impacting existing residential areas.
New regulations will state: Regulated trees located in areas proposed as open space must be retained. Heritage and specimen trees shall be preserved to the maximum extent practical, with minimal disturbance to the natural grade. Changes to the existing grade of a site that will impact trees shall only occur when necessary to meet county code or other regulatory requirements. Trees may only be removed where required fill or site grading exceeds 24 inches from natural grade. Trees may be relocated to other areas of a development side to accommodate grading challenges. Relocated trees may be subject to a monitoring period with success criteria. A project site must not be left cleared in an undeveloped state following land clearing activities for more than 90 days before the commencement of construction.
Tree removal authorization associated with residential, commercial, institutional, or recreational development plans shall preserve specimen trees and heritage trees as follows: These trees may not be removed within property line setback areas or buffer areas. If located within a proposed parking lot or near a stormwater pond, specimen and heritage trees must be incorporated into the overall design, and heritage trees must be incorporated into the design of a single-family residential preliminary subdivision plan.
In Chapter 24 – Landscaping, Buffering, and Open Space, there is a list of recommended replacement and restricted trees. For brevity’s sake, I will only list the larger or canopy trees. (Red Maple, Scrub Hickory, Pignut Hickory, Pecan, Green Ash, Eastern Red Cedar, Sweet Gum, Tulip Tree, Southern Magnolia, Black Gum, Slash Pine, Southern Red Oak, Sand Live Oak, Turkey Oak, Laurel Oak, Swamp Chestnut Oak, Water Oak, Shumard Oak, Love Oak, Bald Cypress, Winged Elm, and Chinese Elm.
Trees are God’s gift to us. I hope this updated ordinance will help preserve more trees during the construction of new subdivisions. I want to preserve Orange County’s natural beauty.