Tampa mayor warning builders to protect tree canopy

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Florida Construction News staff writer

Mayor Jane Castor and the City of Tampa are warning “tree-cutting builders” to protect Tampa’s acclaimed tree canopy from reckless destruction.

Three years after a tree-cutting firm killed 28 grand and protected trees at a former mobile home park at 3011 W. Gandy Blvd., a Circuit Court judge has upheld a $234,427.50 fine against the tree cutter, Miller & Sons LLC.

In a press release, Tampa officials call the penalty “unprecedented”, and Castor said it should signal to all that Tampa loves its trees and never will stop fighting for their protection.

“It’s imperative we do everything we can to safeguard Tampa’s tree canopy, which is one of the most celebrated in the nation,” Castor said. “We expect people to protect trees whenever possible, and our trees are too important for us to sit back and fail to take action.”

The city also filed an ethics complaint with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) against the certified arborist who issued an opinion that the trees were dangerous. After conducting a hearing on the matter, the ISA issued a public reprimand against the arborist, Jonathan Lee.

“Your actions were clearly in violation  of professional, ethical, and legal standards governing the professional practice of arboriculture,” the ISA reprimand letter states.

The Gandy tree cutting occurred in August 2019, a month after the Florida Legislature passed a law banning local regulation of dangerous trees on residential property. In September 2022, a Code Enforcement Special Magistrate ruled that the new state law did not apply to the Gandy property zoned for commercial use, and Miller & Sons appealed.

In 2022, the legislature amended the three-year-old tree cutting law, and the City of Tampa recently issued a memorandum to help the public better understand the city’s regulations on tree removals.

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