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Trees for Freedom

Celebrate freedom by planting a tree on your residential property!

The Florida State Legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill effective July 1, 2019 requiring that:

(1) 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.

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

As a practical matter, this means you no longer need a City of Winter Park permit to prune or remove a tree on your residential property, and you can no longer be required to replant when you remove trees.

I studied and expended considerable energy over the past twelve years devising, implementing, and monitoring a city tree removal policy that was both fair to property owners and that sought to maintain the tree canopy on private property. I also expended considerable energy defending Home Rule authority for our city in the face of attempts by the State to pre-empt such authority. This new State law silences much of those efforts.

But I am not particularly disappointed, and here’s why.

Tree policy has always been cast in extremes; it’s the “irrational tree huggers” against the “evil, selfish tree killers.” But, the reality is that no one chooses to live in Winter Park because they dislike trees. They live in Winter Park because they enjoy the natural aspects of the environment we have nurtured and planned over more than 100 years.

This State law frees us from argument and sets each of us free to set an example rather than impose a law.

Fran and Pete Weldon have planted 3 live oaks and 1 magnolia at 700 Via Lombardy over 30 years of residency, as well as several under story trees.

Let this be the first entry in a voluntary registry of home owners who have planted trees. Let the registry be published each year by the city as a community reminder that the residents of Winter Park value their trees. Let the free acts of responsible citizens deliver what no law can ever assure.

We celebrate Trees for Peace each year. Let’s celebrate Trees for Freedom too.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Posted in Policy.

7 Responses

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  1. Curtis Hanson says

    As a 5 decade resident of the area, I certainly appreciate the importance of trees and how they add to the community and the environment but I find the phrase “Trees for Freedom” or “Trees for Peace” to be Orwellian. Seems strange to invoke freedom and peace and perhaps disturbingly political. “Trees for Beauty” or “Trees for Environment” might be more authentic to the purpose. In any event, otherwise a notable and honorable effort. Thank you.

  2. Rick Frazee says

    This is not good for the City of Winter Park and takes another bite out of our Home Rule. Proper policy falls somewhere between the draconian policy the City once had in place and this new state mandiates a do nothing policy. Lets face it there are people who will take the least cost way out and not replant trees, even in our City.

    In 30+ years, on a lot a third the size of yours Pete my wife and I have planted 4 oaks and 2 cyprus plus the understory shurbs. I cannot begin to count the number of trees that we planted on the site of our family businesss

    Got to agree the “Trees for Freedom” title does sound a bit Orwellian

  3. Trees For Cats says

    I have no problem with the new law, Pete.

    If the City wants to replace private trees that have been removed, there is more than enough City property to do so, when one considers the number of miles of right-of-ways along the streets that the City owns.

    As if that’s not enough space for the City to plant trees, there are parks and other public property available for the City to plant trees on. The City has plenty of money to give trees to residents if they so choose. If the City decides not to fund trees, the residents can form a Tree Trust.

    There will always be trees in Winter Park.

    Trees are like cats. Some people don’t want one. Some want only one. Some want as many as they can get.

    • Peter Weldon says

      I have no issue with the law other than that it was dictated to us by the State. I did the work to lighten up on the draconian policy we used to have (as Rick notes above) and would have done more if the votes were there to do more.

      I don’t believe this law will have any detrimental impact on Winter Park as most residents move here because they like trees. Our 25,000 strong street tree canopy has a healthy future because of the forestry management plan put in place over the past 8 years. Our 75,000 strong tree canopy on private property is not at risk. Even residential spec developers know that a house is worth more in Winter Park with a tree canopy than without one. Time to appreciate our freedom and plant more trees.

  4. Beck says

    Thank you for all that you have done and are doing for our trees! It is evident that you care. Can you please let me know how to access the complete forestry management plan? And, would you know when the last “census” of trees was done?

    • Peter Weldon says

      The city has been keeping track of every street tree beginning about eight years ago. The last numbers I saw on this were that we have been removing about 400 trees a year as they become unsafe and have been planting more than we remove. The inventory of street trees in Winter Park is about 25,000. Contact the city arborist, Dru Dennison for more details:
      407-691-7800. City aerial studies estimate about 75,000 canopy trees on private property. Check out the Urban Forestry Management Plan document here:

  5. Pitt Warner says

    Private property rights, whether it’s trees or mandatory historic home districts, are always under scrutiny/pressure/attack. The usual line of propaganda by the collectivists/no growth activists is along the lines of “Save The Homes” or “Save The Trees”. At the root of these campaigns reveal a simple truth: Stop Growth.

    When the next citizen raises their hand to run for the WP City Commission ask the candidate this question about ordinances: Do you support a mandatory historic home districts ordinance and a tree replacement ordinance that requires a city permit/tree replanting and a donation to a city fund? If they answer “YES”, vote for the other candidate. It’s simple.

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