By Jane Smith
The city strengthened the future of its tree canopy in December by toughening an ordinance protecting shade trees.
The first change was renaming the ordinance, last revised in 2008 and formerly called the Tree Ordinance. It is now known as Tree Preservation, Protection, Enforcement and Maintenance.
The next change will bring the job of protecting specimen trees under the planning and zoning director, instead of the chief building official.
Other changes for hardwood trees that need to be protected include: lowering the minimum diameter from 24 inches to 8 inches of the trunk measured at 41/2 feet above ground and not allowing palms to replace canopy trees. The revised ordinance also requires trees of 24 inches or less in diameter to be moved, if possible.
The 2008 revision created a Tree Trust Fund in the city. In some cases, developers preferred to pay into the trust fund instead of preserving or moving the trees, wrote Tim Stillings, planning and zoning director, in an October memo to the City Commission.
Fees and fines also will be increased, with a final determination of the amounts to come in June, Stillings said.
Commissioners approved the changes by a 4-0 vote; Commissioner Al Jacquet had left the dais.
In other business: On Dec. 8, city commissioners unanimously approved design and architectural changes to the city’s downtown and beach area. Highlights are: Seven architectural styles were identified as fitting the city’s image, along with a provision for mixing styles; and width is limited to 75 feet for storefronts on retail streets.
The commissioners also took advantage of the coming change in ownership of its current trash hauler, Southern Waste Systems, to Waste Management to extract some deals for the city.
Before the sale is closed, John Casagrande of Southern Waste gave the city the 13 big-belly solar trash compactors at the beach and also agreed to service the city’s parks on Sundays at the rate of $400, instead of $800. But he wanted to keep the cost increase that went into effect in October.