NEW TAMPA — The housing development is named Live Oak Preserve. But the road beside it features 90 dead oaks.
Among the 200 oaks freshly planted last year along the new extension of Kinnan Street, another 80 look sickly, with some bare branches, some leafy ones. Only 30 of the new oaks seem fully green.
They were planted pursuant to county law, accepted by county commissioners, but watered by nobody through one of the driest autumns in years. Now, the county is planning to pull out the dead ones.
"This is just one of those oddball cases," said John Newton, the county's director of transportation maintenance.
Newton's crews and contractors maintain the landscapes along county roads. They mow grass, trim trees and gather litter. But they leave watering to Mother Nature.
Generally, the system works, even for new plantings that can need up to a year of regular watering. Private property owners take over watering most of the time, said John Schrecengost, a natural resources manager with the county.
The Hillsborough County code requires road builders to plant a shade tree every 50 feet along each side of a new residential or commercial street, Schrecengost said. Trees planted in front of residential lots get maintained by the developer, and later by homeowners who move in. Developers who build collector roads usually want to handle the landscaping themselves to keep their developments looking nice while they sell off the properties there. Later, property owner associations, such as those in Westchase, take over the work under contract with the county because they want nicer landscaping than the county provides, Schrecengost said.
But the developer of Live Oak was different. Transeastern Homes finished the road last year two years behind schedule. Development in the 2-square-mile Live Oak, which had started with a boom, had slowed to a crawl. All the early phases were built at the opposite end from Kinnan Street.
"It's always been considered to be a road that was built because the county required it," said Rick Feather, vice president of operations for Engle Homes, the successor company to Transeastern.
So the trees became the county's responsibility on July 24 last year, the day county commissioners cast a routine vote to accept the extension of Kinnan as a county road.
Before such votes, county staffers inspect the road to ensure it's up to county standards. But the tree people in Schrecengost's office aren't always notified.
"It just kind of got around us until the issue has now recently come up," Schrecengost said.
Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or firstname.lastname@example.org.