Pasco County is back in the tree care business along U.S. 41. Four months after the county's public works department yanked landscaping from the median of the highway through central Pasco, commissioners correctly approved a new agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation. The county will care for the oaks and crape myrtles planted 11 years ago between the Hillsborough County line and Bell Lake Road. Cost will be $10,000 annually, a modest, but worthwhile investment in the county's aesthetics.
Under a 10-year contract signed in 1999, DOT paid for the original plants and the county agreed to the maintenance. After the contract expired, the county decided it no longer could afford the expense of pruning, fertilizing and mulching. In October, county workers began taking out the crape myrtles just north of State Road 54. Commissioner Pat Mulieri smartly put a stop to the uprooting, but not before the county had removed nine trees, or about a fifth of the plants.
The county pulled the trees from a portion of U.S. 41 that isn't particularly attractive. On the west side sits railroad tracks, a lumber yard's chain link fence and multiple billboards. To the east is a fast-food restaurant fronting an L-shaped strip center. Nearly all of the development predates the county's landscape ordinances governing commercial aesthetics. This stretch of Pasco could use a little beautification and the county is correct to do its part.
In October, county officials said the trees were salvaged and planted elsewhere. We trust replacements will be coming for U.S. 41. The county's own development ordinances require new businesses to plant attractive landscape buffers. Likewise, the tree-protection rules mandates that even private property owners obtain a permit to remove a dead tree while replanting a new one elsewhere on the site.
Pasco County shouldn't ask private citizens to accept more stringent rules than their local government is willing to follow.