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The Villages
Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Lady Lake commissioner voices frustration over tree removal bill on governor’s desk

Dan Vincent
Dan Vincent

Lady Lake Commissioner Dan Vincent made one thing clear Monday night – he’s not happy with a tree removal bill that’s sitting on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

The bill, which DeSantis has yet to sign, would remove local control over tree removal and would signal a major change in The Villages and Lady Lake, where local approval is required for such an action.

“It’s serious,” Vincent said.

While a report from an arborist would be required, Mayor Jim Richards said residents would be able to take down trees without permits, which would make monitoring such activities quite difficult.

“They do have to have an arborist, but we have no chance to rebut the arborist,” Vincent said.

He added that he believes arborists could end up being state employees working for a division that handles tree removals.

“It’s very, very serious,” Vincent said, adding that he would encourage everyone to send a letter or email to DeSantis, state senators and representatives encouraging them to oppose the bill.

Mayor Jim Richards

Richards said he isn’t happy that something so important could be taken away from being controlled at the local level.

“They don’t even call,” he said of state officials. “They could have sent a note to the town, asking ‘What’s your pleasure?’”

“They didn’t give the cities or anybody else a chance to voice their opinions,” Vincent added.

Currently, a homeowner in The Villages must apply to the Architectural Review Committee to request the removal of a tree, that is more than four inches in circumference. That rule does not apply to a palm tree, which is technically considered a grass. The ARC, which considers an arborist’s report for each tree removal, typically requires removal of the stump and in many cases requires a replacement tree be planted.

The Town of Lady Lake, long proud of its Tree City USA designation, requires a permit for tree removal – even palm trees.

Here is some of the language of the bill:

A local government may not require a notice, application, approval, permit, fee, or mitigation for the pruning, trimming, or removal of a tree on residential property if the property owner obtains documentation from an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture or a Florida licensed landscape architect that the tree presents a danger to persons or property.

A local government may not require a property owner to replant a tree that was pruned, trimmed or removed in accordance with this section.

Earlier this month, a Villager was seriously injured when her golf cart hit a rope stretched across a roadway. The rope was being used in a tree removal, in which the neither the tree removal company nor the homeowner had obtained the proper permit from the Town of Lady Lake prior to the beginning of the work.

Also earlier this month, DeSantis vetoed a similar bill that would have barred Florida communities from enacting bans on plastic straws.

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