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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Holmes Beach beautification committee reviews landscape requirements

Two members of the Holmes Beach Parks and Beautification Committee have submitted proposed changes to the city's landscape ordinance for review and discussion at their September meeting.

Deborah Heger and Kathleen King both took time during the committee's summer break to research landscape requirements from neighboring cities and review the existing statutes and details of Holmes Beach's requirements.

King said she conducted a review of the city's recommendations for landscaping and preservation of foliage, location of image-enhancing items, such as benches, signs and markers, and use of publicly owned facilities.

In King's proposal to the committee, she highlighted sections within the existing code as focal points for further discussion.

"I think the codes are stringent in some ways and needs to have more enforcement," suggested King.

One of the key points King noted in her proposal is the tree replacement policy, which she said is unclear. She suggests clarifying that a tree-removal permit is not a requirement for a developer to remove exotic trees from new residential and commercial construction sites and during renovation. She said that removal of invasive exotic trees or plant life should be mitigated with comparable-sized native trees or plants on the site.

Additionally, King proposed strengthening the ordinance with a specific tree-replacement clause, addressing trees, plants or shrubs that die or are uprooted in a storm. The clause would also detail the types of trees suitable for mitigation or replacement for lost landscaping.

Heger submitted an in-depth redraft of the city's current ordinance for review. She proposed to split the ordinance into five sections - minimum landscape requirements, parking buffers, lighting, screening and trees.

It also clarifies the applicability of each section to single- and two-family residences, adds language encouraging Florida-friendly landscaping practices, adds a separate ordinance for water conservation where permanent in-ground irrigation systems are used and adds a definition section.

The tree section is revised to include single-family residential, but also expands exempt trees. "This will elevate tree protection for all land uses, but encourage, through the expanded exemption, elimination of recognized harmful trees," said Heger.

Heger's addition of a proposed water-conservation ordinance is designed to give guidance on plant types that aid water conservation and landscape practices friendly to water quality. Included in the proposed ordinance is a compliance checklist and landscape inspection form, which apply to properties utilizing an in-ground irrigation system.

Heger is also a proponent of education and outlined suggestions for educating property owners through outreach programs, training, building a satellite library of Manatee County extension service publications, creating a "welcome wagon" and demonstration gardens.

King also emphasized that changes to the landscape ordinance "need to be an inclusive plan that people will want to participate in."