BRADENTON -- For three decades Manatee County has required the installation and relocation of trees for new development. What started as an effort to keep the county green with trees and not barren urban landscape, has grown into a big-buck problem for county officials and home owner associations (HOA) throughout Manatee.
Manatee County Planning Division Manager Doug Means and Chad Butzow, Deputy Director-Field Operation Services, reviewed the many cases of damaged sidewalks, water meters and power-lines and expressed trepidation to the continuation of the LDC tree program.
The damage being done from street trees is extensive and expensive. Solutions as to how that will be remedied have not yet been decided, nor has whose dime will cover the costs.
Public/private utilities have continued to be a problem for county officials. Recently, a few of the privately-owned developments have asked the county to take possession of their utility operations (maintaining of streets and sewers). This could be costly to the public.
In such cases, the street size, sidewalks and landscapes are not always up to code, and street trees seem to be a continuation of that predicament.
But street trees were not without their supporters. Landscape companies that have profited by the LDC requirements point out the added value of property that translates to additional tax revenue. They argue that needs to be considered and offered the option of less offensive trees being installed.
Members of HOA's weighed in, making it quite clear that they didn't want anyone messing with their trees. Some claimed trees made their houses cooler, and others said there was an environmental trade-off.
Clearly, what started as a crack in a sidewalk, has grown into an even further evaluation of the Manatee County LDC. As the 10 to 20-year old developments mature, so do the problems.
Here are just a few of the questions now facing the county:
Whose responsibility is it to pay for the damages, and liabilities that broken sidewalks present?
Can the problem be corrected by repealing or creating an ordinance?
What will the requirements for tree placement, if there is one, look like for future development?
The county will continue to study options, while weighing the pros and the cons.
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