Pasco County is considering changes to update its landscaping code — addressing such issues as tree preservation and placements; landscaping and buffering; and planting in rights of way, in residential subdivisions.
Patrick Dutter, a county senior planner, explained the proposed changes to the Pasco County Planning Commission, during its April 7 meeting.
“Probably two years ago, now, we were asked by the Tampa Bay Builders Association (TBBA) to look at amending some of our policies and our land development code, to clean up some items,” Dutter said.
A task force was formed, including county staff, TBBA representatives, experts in landscape architecture, an arborist, and a representative from the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS)/Pasco County Cooperative Extension.
The group looked at some issues raised by TBBA, but a number of other items also surfaced during the review.
One of the changes being proposed deals with how tree replacements are calculated, Dutter said.
Instead of measuring every tree on a project site, representative samples would be allowed, he said.
Dutter explained: “Let’s say you have a 100-acre project and there’s a whole bunch of trees on that. Someone has to go out and measure each individual tree, to figure out, OK, if you’re taking down trees, how many inches do you need to replace over time?
“That can be quite time-consuming.
“So, what we’ve done in the past is, we’ve allowed people to sample certain areas, with county approval,” Dutter said.
This change would allow the sampling to occur, without having to go through an Alternative Standards process.
The update also provides definitions for what constitutes a shade tree and what constitutes an ornamental tree, Dutter said.
It also addresses a requirement that said that 70% of buffers needed to have landscaping in them.
“Essentially, what that ended up doing is most of our buffers would have ground cover plantings and they would have mulch. Those ground covers generally don’t survive very long, so you’ve got most of your buffer basically being mulch and a little bit of landscaping,” Dutter said.
“We tweaked that requirement a little bit, too, rather than have that 70% rule, we added some additional landscaping, specifically in our buffering requirement,” he said.
The update also proposed a change in the vehicle dealership buffer.
“The original vehicle dealership buffer called for it to be 75 feet wide, which is quite a large buffer space,” Dutter said. “The code currently doesn’t even have a visual screening component for it, which is probably the most important thing you want, when you’re having a vehicle dealership abutting a residential project.
“So, we shortened that buffer width and we added the visual screening component to it, as well. So, we kind of made that swap,” he said.
The proposed code also updates links to outside resources that had become outdated, Dutter said.
It also has a link to an invasive species list.
The tree list that had been presented as part of the code has been moved to the development review manual, so it can be updated on a timelier basis, Dutter added.
Also, the cooperative extension representative and the tree arborist went through the list of trees, found the appropriate spacing requirements, called out where mitigation measures would be needed and where they wouldn’t be needed, Dutter added. The tree list calls out where different types of trees should be placed.
Planning Commissioner Jamie Girardi applauded the task force’s work and resulting recommendations.
“I think this is a very thorough job, and I think there’s a lot of changes that are included in here that needed to be done and were probably long overdue,” he said. “And, I think it was a very good job, putting it together.”
But he also noted: “Simple changes with increases to landscape island widths have pretty substantial impacts.”
The ordinance will be adopted in coming weeks, he said.
“I have several clients out there that purchased property and we’re ongoing in preparing construction plans, and frankly, I don’t know if we can beat those dates,” he said.
Dutter explained the rationale for the change to the planning board.
“Our current dimension for those islands that we’re talking about is 8 feet wide.
“We spent some time putting together our tree list with our arborist and landscape experts. Most trees to be successful need a little bit more room than that. So, we bumped up that island width from being 8 feet wide to being 10 feet wide, just to give it a little bit room,” Dutter said.
Girardi responded: “Admittedly, the 8-foot width limits what you can actually plant in those islands.”
The issue of landscaping requirements has come up repeatedly during Pasco County Commission meetings, with Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey and Commissioner Ron Oakley making persistent calls for changes that would promote better-looking development in Pasco.
The Pasco County Planning Commission voted to recommend the proposed changes be adopted. The Pasco County Commission has final jurisdiction on planning and land use matters.
Proposed changes to the Pasco County landscaping code would:
- Enable representative samples to be taken, on a property relating to requirements involving calculating requirements relating to tree removal, subject to the county’s discretion
- Remove the requirement to submit an Alternative Standard Application, when making use of existing trees and shrubs, as part of the landscape buffer.
- Reduce the requirement that 70% of the buffer be non-grassed
- Add language that addresses “right tree, right place”
- Define shade trees
- Define ornamental trees
- Clarify the use of palm trees
- Update ground cover planting requirements
- Update tree diversity requirements
- Add language about the proper maintenance of trees
- Add language about keeping future planting areas free of debris
- Add a requirement of one shade tree in the front yard of single-family homes
- Update and clarify requirements in vehicle use areas
- Require landscape islands to be 10 feet wide (they were previously required to be 8 feet wide)
- Add requirements for large vehicle use areas (VUA)
• Clarify plantings adjacent to building perimeters
• Revamp the Buffer Requirement Table
• Revamp the Buffer and Screening Requirements Table
• Adjust the Vehicle Dealership Buffer
• Add standards for ponds adjacent to rights of way
- Changes the order of some chapters and moves some elements into the land development manual, which is updated more frequently.
Source: April 7 agenda materials for the Pasco County Planning Commission
Published April 20, 2022
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