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Port Orange Observer Thursday, Apr. 4, 2019 2 weeks ago

Split Port Orange City Council protects trees — but at what cost to developers?

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Tramont and Wiles think a tree mitigation bank would penalize business owners too harshly.
by: Tanya Russo Staff Writer

Removing trees unnecessarily will mean higher costs for developers, after the Port Orange City Council voted to amend its code — but not all council members felt it was worth the costs to businesses.

The vote was 3-2 on April 2, on the first reading of an ordinance to amend the Land Development Code for tree removal in commercial developments. Mayor Don Burnette said staff recommended the ordinance be updated to increase rates to developers who remove trees. The purpose is to discourage unnecessary tree removal, but if trees are removed, developers must pay into the mitigation bank.

Tim Burman, director of Community Development for Port Orange, presented information about changes that would be made to update the ordinance. Recommendations were developed by the city’s Environmental Advisory Board in October 2018.

Councilman Drew Bastian was part of the discussion with the EAB in October. He voted in favor of the amendment.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Bastian said. “They (EAB) started talking about this a long time back. It took some work to get here. I think it’s a good idea and going in the right direction. [The ordinance] will modernize it. This will be a good thing moving forward for sure."

Vice Mayor Chase Tramont voted against the ordinance. “I understand the philosophy behind it,” he said. “I appreciate it. Every time I see something requiring businesses to pay more funds, it always makes me a little nervous.”

Interim Councilman Jack Wiles was also against the ordinance. “You’re penalizing the businesses that just so happen to buy a piece of property with a number of trees in the buffer,” he said. “And because it’s (the ordinance) not changing how many trees need to be in the buffer, it’s only changing the amount of money the business owner has to pay the developer to take those trees out. I’m not in favor of it.”

The ordinance would add a tree mitigation requirement both for trees 6 inches or more in diameter in a buffer area, and for specimen trees. A specimen tree is a viable tree that is in good or very good condition. If a developer removes these types of trees, they would have to pay a fee into the tree mitigation bank. Developers can also do a tree replacement on the site.

Mitigation fees would be used by the city for replacement trees, and/or to pay for irrigation along Dunlawton Avenue. The EAB would like to see the tree mitigation bank become an environmental mitigation bank to open up more areas that could be helped with mitigation funds.

The purpose of charging a mitigation fee is to encourage more buffers in developments to remain natural. More natural trees could be left as part of the landscape design.

The ordinance would also establish a standard tree survey for all developments. If a developer would want to leave natural areas as conservation and part of the landscape, tree surveys would not be needed.

Currently tree surveys are different for various types of development. In areas of conservation, the land is often trampled over and disrupted while doing the surveys. The standard survey would allow developers to leave conservation areas within the development site alone.

 

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