Tree removal bill still in limbo would have huge impact in The Villages

A tree removal bill, which remains on the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, was the subject of a legislative update provided by District Counsel Valerie Fuchs on Thursday afternoon to the Community Development District 9 and 10 boards of supervisors.

The bill would remove local control over tree removal and would signal a major change in The Villages and Lady Lake.

Currently, Villagers are required to obtain Architectural Review Committee approval prior to tree removal, Fuchs said. In Lady Lake, residents must obtain a tree removal permit. Villagers who live within the boundaries of Lady Lake must obtain both ARC approval and a tree removal permit from the town.

But if the tree removal bill wins approval, residents would only have to persuade a certified arborist to determine the tree is a “danger to persons or property,” according to a memo prepared by Fuchs for the CDD boards.

Furthermore, the ARC frequently requires homeowners to replant a replacement tree. It would be stripped of that authority if the bill wins the governor’s approval.

In an editorial, Villages-News.com has taken a stand against the tree removal bill because it disregards the cherished idea of local control.

In May, 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.

Lady Lake Code Enforcement Officer Michelle Bilbrey examines the tree in the wake of the accident.

Lady Lake officials, long proud of the town’s Tree City USA status, have previously voiced their strong opposition to the bill.