By B.C. Manion
You might call it a case of unintended consequences.
When they required developers of most new subdivisions to plant trees in the lawns between the streets and the sidewalks, Pasco County leaders envisioned a day when those trees would form a canopy over the road, providing shade and creating a charming neighborhood ambience.
What they didn’t picture: sidewalks buckling from bulging root systems of mature trees.
Enter the Pasco Alliance of Community Associations.
This group wants to find a solution that gives people the option of taking the offending trees out and replacing them with tree with a smaller root system or planting another tree in a different location on their property, or donating a tree to plant somewhere else in the community where they live.
Or, they could simply leave the tree with the offending roots alone, said Jim Flateau, president of the Pasco Alliance of Community Associations, or PACA for short.
A number of PACA members have reported that sidewalks in their neighborhoods have been shifted by tree roots. They include the communities of Lake Heron, Stagecoach Santa Fe, Meadow Pointe II, Lettingwell, Collier Place, Asbel Creek, Oakstead, Meadow Pointe II, Sedgewick and Country Walk, according to PACA’s newsletter.
In many communities, it is the adjoining landowner’s responsibility to remove the tree and replace the damaged sidewalk, the newsletter says.
Flateau met with county representatives and Pasco County Commissioner Pat Mulieri to discuss the issue.
The officials expressed an interest in working with PACA to create an ordinance that would address the issue in existing communities.
Any proposed changes could be incorporated as part of the county’s rewrite of its land use code, or it could be taken up separately, Flateau said in a recent interview. In either event, however, there would be a public hearing on any proposed changes so residents would have a chance to share their thoughts.
County officials have noted that it is important to be sure that replacement trees are the “right tree” planted in the “right place,” Flateau said.
That means choosing trees that are Florida-friendly, selecting a variety of trees and ensuring that replacement trees are the right size for where they are being planted, Flateau said.
In order words, the county doesn’t want everyone to plant the same kind of tree because a disease could wipe them all out, he explained.
A website that can provide useful information on “right tree, right place” is: http://www.floridayards.org/fyplants/index.php
The idea is to try to establish the widest range of options.
“Let’s solve this problem for the people who think it’s a problem,” Flateau said.
County might trim tree rules
Although it was just an initial meeting, Pasco County officials and representatives of neighborhoods are considering options for replacing sidewalk-damaging trees.
— Leaving trees in place, if that is what the landowner wants.
— Requiring landowners to seek county permission to remove trees and to find out from the county whether the trees need to be replaced
— Planting an approved replacement tree on community property, if an overgrown tree has been removed from a lot that is too small to accommodate a tree.
— Giving associations the latitude to write their own plans for tree removal and replacement and deciding how to pay for it – and requiring the approval of such plans from the county