Tampa’s trees return to the spotlight at the City Council meeting this morning

Tampa's tree ordinance may be streamlined. Many residents, especially in South Tampa, aren't happy with proposed changes, contending they will harm the city's tree canopy. [Times files]
Tampa's tree ordinance may be streamlined. Many residents, especially in South Tampa, aren't happy with proposed changes, contending they will harm the city's tree canopy. [Times files]
Published November 1 2018

TAMPA — For more than 18 months, the city code protecting Tampa’s trees has been the subject of fierce battles between advocates eager to protect the canopy and builders frustrated by bureaucratic hurdles they say stifle redevelopment in the urban core.

In August, an advocacy group, Tree Something, Say Something and the Tampa Bay Builders Association struck a truce allowing some flexibility for property owners by adjusting where a home could be sited on a lot to protect existing trees. That peace was applauded by council members exhausted by the bickering since the issue debuted in April 2017.

That amendment will be under consideration by council members at this morning’s meeting. The Hillsborough City-County Planning Commission signed off on the changes last month.

Meanwhile, a city staff rewrite of other parts of the nearly half-century-old ordinance confused and upset tree advocates at last week’s meeting when they learned that an appeal board —- the variance review board — and rules notifying neighbors might be axed from the new ordinance. Those changes have not been vetted yet in a council workshop or examined by the planning commission.

The two separate issues may collide today as all sides seek some clarity on what the ordinance’s final version may contain, something council member Harry Cohen said was necessary last week.

Cohen, a mayoral candidate, represents leafy South Tampa, the epicenter of the tree battle.

Council members have said repeatedly they want to find some solution before a majority of the seven-member council leaves due to term limits on May 1.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the 3rd floor council chambers at City Hall, 306 E. Jackson St. The meetings are televised at Channel 640 on Charter Spectrum and Channel 15 on Frontier. You can also watch online at tampagov.net.

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727)893-8459. [email protected]

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