Delray Beach: Canopy policy in the works for Tree City

By Jane Smith

Delray Beach city commissioners want to live up to their Arbor Day Foundation designation as a Tree City.

At a Jan. 22 workshop, commissioners approved a tree canopy policy that will be included in its comprehensive plan update. The comp plan, called Always Delray, contains the city’s growth guidelines for the next 10 years. The commission will vote on the entire plan in the spring.

Delray Beach will finish its tree canopy assessment this month.

Twenty-tree percent of the city is covered in trees, said Tim Stillings, development services director. The percentage is higher than in Orlando and lower than Lake Worth, he said. But Gainesville has a higher percentage — above 50.

“You can’t just add more trees,” Stillings said. The city would need 105 acres, or 2,300 trees, to increase its tree canopy by 1 percentage point, he said. Delray Beach has 2,405 acres covered in trees.

The lowest canopy percentages are in the industrial area between Southwest 10th Street and Linton Boulevard and in the Northwest and Southwest neighborhoods, Stillings said.

The city has about $138,365 in its tree trust fund, paid by developers who are charged a fee when they remove trees. The amount does not include the estimated $140,000 that will come from Midtown Delray on South Swinton Avenue and another sum from the redevelopment of the Office Depot site on South Congress Avenue.

At the workshop, Mayor Shelly Petrolia asked about the fate of the 20-foot-tall banyan tree on Northeast Seventh Avenue.

Bill Wilshire, the city’s senior landscape planner, said he has talked with the architect of the four townhomes that will be built at the southwest corner of Northeast Seventh Avenue and Northeast Second Street.

The plan is for the tree to be cut in pieces and moved to Mike Machek Boy Scout Park on Lake Ida Road, Wilshire said. “About half of the tree can’t be saved,” he said.

The banyan tree has 75 percent of its canopy on private property, and the rest spills over onto the sidewalk, Wilshire said.

Wilshire plans to approach the owner soon with that plan. The owner then would plant seven live oaks in its place along the perimeter of the property. 

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