Community Development Districts are revising rules regarding removal of palm trees in The Villages.
Over the past two weeks, supervisors have been approving revisions to the architectural review manual aimed at streamlining the process. As The Villages has been growing, so has the long list of business on the agenda each Wednesday for the all-volunteer Architectural Review Committee.
Each week, about a half-dozen requests for palm tree removal are considered by the ARC, whose meetings have swelled to several hours each week. Virtually all of the palm tree removal requests are granted.
Palm trees are considered a “grass” and do not warrant the same protection as canopy trees, according to Community Standards staff.
“We use the terminology ‘palm tree,’ but that is technically incorrect,” said CDD 6 Supervisor Tom Griffith.
Many jurisdictions don’t protect palm trees, said District Manager Richard Baier.
If a Villages homeowner wants to plant a palm tree, that would still have to be part of an overall landscaping plan that would have to be considered by the ARC.
If a homeowner removes a palm tree and leaves a stump, the stump could be considered a deed restriction violation. However, there was a case in which the stump was carved into a decorative “lawn ornament” and was permitted, as that particular Community Development District does not restrict lawn ornaments.
Removal of all other trees would have to go before the ARC, which is famously protective of trees.
The Town of Lady Lake still requires a permit for the removal of a palm tree. In 2016, a Villager in the Lady Lake section hired an unlicensed contractor to remove a palm tree without a permit. That contractor accidentally knocked out a power line and cut off power for many Villagers at a very hot time of the year.