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Tampa considers tougher tree rules

The proposal comes after last year's controversial trimming of a centuries-old oak tree.

In an effort to protect grand trees, the city is poised to impose tougher restrictions on tree trimming or removal. The restrictions might have prevented the severe, controversial shearing of a huge live oak last June on Chapin Avenue.

The new restrictions, on which the City Council will vote Thursday, require that grand trees _ generally more than 36 inches in diameter and more than 30 feet tall _ can be removed only when they are deemed hazardous or they prevent what the city deems a "reasonable" use of a piece of property.

The city's urban forester would review applications to have such trees removed because they are hazardous. Requests to remove them because they prevent "reasonable" use would go before a variance board in a public hearing, assistant city attorney Morris Massey said.

The ordinance also tightens the definition of tree trimming so it complies with a nationally recognized standard and requires people to obtain a permit before trimming grand trees, Massey said.

In the incident last June, the City Council refused to let a couple remove a centuries-old oak on Chapin Avenue where the couple intended to build an $800,000 house. The couple hired a crew with a city-issued tree trimming permit to lop off 60 percent of the oak _ more than the national standard would have permitted. Neighbors were appalled.

So was council member Linda Saul-Sena, who has pushed for the new trimming restrictions.

"The tree canopy that Tampa enjoys is one of the points of pride in our community," she said.