Balancing property rights for local and state governments can be a delicate dance.
Senate Bill 574, filed by state Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would remove city and county governments’ authority to regulate “the trimming, removal, or harvesting of trees and timber on private property.”
Manatee County Commissioner Steve Jonsson, who represents District 3, including Anna Maria Island, said he thinks Steube is taking matters too far.
“I know he’s big on property rights, but do we really need Tallahassee sticking its nose into these areas?” Jonsson asked. “I’m very much a home-rule type of person and I am not sure why we should allow Tallahassee to dictate what we do with trees, locally.”
Tree and landscaping ordinances in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach — in place to protect older trees and also provide for removal of nuisance vegetation — would be preempted by the state.
Additionally, the island municipalities all carry Tree City USA designations, which mandate “a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day,” according to the Arbor Day Foundation.
Steube has publicly referred to his personal experience with obtaining permits for tree removal when he started up a building project on undeveloped property in Sarasota County.
He apparently was disconcerted when he discovered he needed county permits to remove trees from about an acre of land and could not bury the debris on his property, but had to pay for its removal. Steube’s bill also allows for debris to be buried on properties of 2.5 acres or more.
Tjet Martin, former chair of Bradenton Beach Scenic WAVES Partnership Committee, the recommending board for landscaping and beautification in the city, said she sees the bill as another example of Steube serving his own interests. During the 2017 legislative session, Steube filed Senate Bill 188, which, if adopted, would have prevented local governments from enacting new regulations for vacation rentals and removed vacation rental ordinances enacted after 2011. At the time, Steube openly stated his inspiration for the bill came when he and his wife were shopping for a vacation rental in Flagler Beach and realized they couldn’t rent it out short-term due to local ordinances.
“Why can’t he concentrate on issues that matter to the people instead of his special interest?” Martin asked. “Home rule was created for our local protection from Tallahassee. Steube needs to leave it alone.”
SB 574 can be tracked online at: www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2018/00574.