Monday, August 20, 2018
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa City Council gives preliminary approval to make it easier to cut down a tree

When it comes to the subject of trees in Tampa, it's never easy sledding.

But the City Council Thursday decided that action beats further delays on a the city's nearly half-century old tree ordinance and voted to send county planners a streamlined version that makes it easier to remove trees from private property.

The 4-2 vote came after nearly more than two hours of public comment and debate with council members Harry Cohen and Charlie Miranda voting against the modified proposal by the Tampa Bay Builders Association. Council member Frank Reddick had left the meeting by the time the vote was taken.

About a dozen residents pleaded with council members not to give preliminary approval to the plan, saying the builders proposal amounted to clear cutting, endangering the city's cherished tree canopy. And they complained that the proposal had surfaced too quickly in a move many decried as sneaky.

"There would have been more people here if this had been more widely known. It's pretty scary how this came up," said Chelsea Johnson, president of the Bayshore Beautiful Homeowners Association.

But builders said they had waited for years to fix an expensive and time consuming process that forced property owners who wanted to remove a tree to request a variance.

"We've been going through these same discussions for the last 7 ½ years," said Jennifer Motsinger, the builders association's executive vice president. "Take action to give us clarity on this process."

Council chairwoman Yvonne "Yolie" Capin agreed. She said the revision, which had taken more than a year, needed a push.

"That's the whole point. Let's inject vigor because there was no vigor," Capin said.

Council member Harry Cohen said he knew hundreds of emails circulating among residents claiming the builders wanted a green light for clear cutting wasn't accurate.

But, Cohen said, council members should wait to gather more information. A report on the current state of the city's canopy was due in April.

"That's a huge piece of factual analysis that none of us have seen yet," Cohen said.

Much of the city thinks development is destroying Tampa's tree cover, he said. Many other residents think it's healthy and growing. To allow the tree removal portion of the ordinance to move forward before deciding how to update how to replace trees are lost stretches public trust, he said.

Council member Mike Suarez asked city staff to forward to the county planning commission a modified version of the builders' plan. One change would tie any removal to a building permit so that trees couldn't be cut down before a definite plan was in place. Decisions should be made on individual parcels, not whole zoning districts. And residents or builders seeking to cut down trees wouldn't have to go to a variance review board, which could cost thousands of dollars.

County planners should have their recommendation back to the city by the end of April. The city would then give the ordinance two readings before a vote.

Suarez said they could reject or further modify the plan later this year.

"We have 100 percent control over the process," Suarez said.

Comments
Janet Cruz retracts endorsement of Susan Valdes in House 62 race

Janet Cruz retracts endorsement of Susan Valdes in House 62 race

TAMPA — State Rep. Janet Cruz has withdrawn her endorsement of former Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes in the race to fill Cruz's House seat because of Valdes' ties to the charter school industry.Cruz acted after a mail...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Buckhorn endorses Mike Alvarez in HD62 Democratic primary

Buckhorn endorses Mike Alvarez in HD62 Democratic primary

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has thrown his political clout behind Mike Alvarez in a hard-fought Democratic primary in a state House seat covering West Tampa and Town 'N Country.Alvarez is battling Susan Valdes, a Hillsborough County School Board member, in th...
Updated: 10 hours ago
David Straz releases new TV ad in Tampa mayor’s race

David Straz releases new TV ad in Tampa mayor’s race

David Straz has suggested he'll spend whatever it takes to become Tampa's next mayor.So far, the money he's spending on TV ads shows he appears to mean it.On Monday, the Straz campaign released the second ad introducing the 75-year-old retired banker...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Transportation and sprawl Hillsborough’s biggest woes, say commission candidates

Transportation and sprawl Hillsborough’s biggest woes, say commission candidates

TAMPA -Planners predict some 600,000 people will move to Hillsborough County by 2045, further straining the county's overburdened road network.So it's no surprise that candidates running for the Hillsborough County Commission identified reducing cong...
Published: 08/17/18
Contract to build new Howard Frankland Bridge is record $814M

Contract to build new Howard Frankland Bridge is record $814M

ST. PETERSBURG — The Florida Department of Transportation is prepared to pay a contractor $814 million to design and build a new, 8-lane Howard Frankland Bridge linking Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.A draft request for proposals outli...
Published: 08/16/18
Pinellas County’s top choice for top job: Barry Burton

Pinellas County’s top choice for top job: Barry Burton

A nationwide search ended Thursday when the Pinellas County Commission unanimously selected an official from outside Chicago to be the next county administrator.Now, all Barry Burton has to do is accept the job.It took the commission about 35 minutes...
Published: 08/16/18
A Hillsborough school board candidate strikes a nerve when he emails his pitch to teachers

A Hillsborough school board candidate strikes a nerve when he emails his pitch to teachers

This post is updated with the candidate's response.Laurie Rodriguez opened her Hillsborough County School District email and found a campaign flyer for Steve Cona, a builders association executive who is running for School Board.Rodriguez, a teacher ...
Published: 08/16/18
Hillsborough to regulate massage parlors in crackdown on prostitution

Hillsborough to regulate massage parlors in crackdown on prostitution

TAMPA – Hillsborough County has followed the city of Tampa in cracking down on illicit services like prostitution by moving to regulate massage parlors and bathhouses.County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a law restrict...
Published: 08/15/18
St. Pete wants to get tougher on single-use plastics, polystyrene

St. Pete wants to get tougher on single-use plastics, polystyrene

ST. PETERSBURG — Food trucks, grocery stores, restaurants and any business that serves food and drink in the city could face some big changes in the way they use plastic and polystyrene products in the coming years.Imagine paying 5 cents f...
Published: 08/15/18
Pinellas commissioners interview county administrator candidates

Pinellas commissioners interview county administrator candidates

ST. PETERSBURG — The four candidates vying to become the next administrator of Pinellas County spent the past two days making their pitch to dozens of community leaders — and to their future bosses, the County Commission.Now it's a waitin...
Published: 08/14/18