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Titusville Citizens Take Action with Tree Protection Ordinance


Citizens Take Action
Published on January 21, 2021
Written by Kay St. Onge of Titusville Tree Team 

Titusville is undergoing a housing boom. Thirteen developments with 5,300 housing units are proposed, involving 1400 wooded acres. The City indicates an additional 4800 acres are available for development.

Currently, Titusville allows developers to remove 90% of all vegetation in developments, only requiring an area of 10% vegetation be preserved. The wooded acreages of Titusville are a natural resource that once cut will never be replaced. While developers may need to cut many trees to build a subdivision, developers should be required to preserve some existing trees among the new houses. Based upon US EPA parameters*, 1400 acres of development would add 600 million gallons/year of polluted runoff to the IRL. If 4800 additional acres were developed, this would add 2 billion gallons/year of polluted runoff to the Indian River Lagoon.

In early 2019, citizens became alarmed when they saw large wooded acreages being clear cut for new developments. Members of local environmental groups formed a citizens’ action group, the Titusville Tree Team. In April 2019, the Team presented a petition urging City Council to draft a new Tree Protection ordinance to prevent clear cutting.

At Council’s July, 2019 Tree Protection Workshop, Team members spoke about tree preservation benefits. Council directed staff to draft an ordinance to address clear cutting and protect large trees. Team members were encouraged by Council’s directive for a new ordinance.

However, this draft failed to meet the directive of Council as it continued to allow 90% of vegetation removal. It did provide that trees 32” diameter at breast height or larger could only be removed with approval of Council.

The Team began working to amend the draft of the Tree Protection ordinance, replacing the requirement of 10% vegetation with 25% tree canopy, providing the trees legal protection in tracts, owned by the HOA. The tree tracts would be distributed among the houses to provide benefits of trees to residents.

Before becoming law, the ordinance must be reviewed by two commissions and approved by Council. Team members met with Titusville Environmental Commissioners, seeking their advice on the amended version. In March 2020, the Titusville Environmental Commission recommended the Team’s amended version over the staff version.

Planning and Zoning Commission required meetings of Team members and developers to discuss the ordinance. A group presented a Compromise Version to the City. In January 2021, City staff indicated they would draft a new Tree Protection ordinance for review by Commissioners and Council at public hearings after input from commissioners and others.

The Titusville Tree Team continues to press forward with the process, knowing the many benefits of trees and the critical role trees play in preventing further degradation of the Indian River Lagoon.

Pollutants in stormwater runoff are among the greatest threats to clean water and include antifreeze, oil, fertilizers, pesticides, and pet wastes. Trees help reduce and filter runoff prior to infiltration into aquifers. Trees absorb runoff’s pollutants which would cause algae blooms in waterways. The Team supports the City’s proposed Low Impact Development ordinance dealing with stormwater management.

Team members advocate for living shorelines which employ mangroves to effectively prevent the Lagoon’s shoreline erosion, filter pollution, and provide wildlife habitat. Team members have voiced their concerns regarding the December 2020 sewage spill in Sand Point Park and Space View Park.

We cannot expect to have healthy people unless we have a healthy planet. Humans are disrupting ecosystems that would naturally regulate diseases and protect human health. Large, preserved trees make neighborhoods more livable, reducing ambient temperatures and connecting people to nature’s healing quality. But discharge of polluted stormwater runoff and sewage spills into the Indian River Lagoon jeopardize citizens’ health and require greater infrastructure expenditures.

The Team attends City meetings, promoting the preservation of trees and wetlands in one proposed development after another. Through petitions, presentations, and email/public comments, the Team has influenced Commissioners and Council members to consider the Indian River Lagoon and the environment in decision-making. It is hoped that Titusville’s Tree Protection ordinance will serve as a model to other municipalities in Brevard County and Florida.

*Growth and Water Resources | Watershed Academy Web | US EPA

Data from US EPA Watershed Academy Web Growth and Water Resources Impervious Surfaces and the Hydrologic Balance of Watersheds.

Tree canopy provides shade, increasing livability in the neighborhood.

Large oaks' shading the street reduces the ambient temperature.

A tree well was utilized to preserve this large tree.

A tree island in Titusville's Hickory Hills subdivision

Another wooded acreage jeopardized by potential development

What was once thick forest, now clear cut for housing development, Titusville, Florida

And on and on, unless a Tree Protection ordinance preventing clear-cutting is passed. 

New houses bake in the Florida sun where once a forest grew. It will be decades before these saplings provide shade for these residents. 

36C = 99F    50C = 122F    43C = 109F
18C = 64F
    26C = 79F    20C=68F

Contact: Titusville Tree Team | stongekay@yahoo.com | Credit: Photography and article by Titusville Tree Team

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1 Comments

  1. September 2021 Update: Congratulations to the Titusville Tree Team for getting the Tree Protection Ordinance passed in the city of Titusville.
    The Tree Protection Ordinance requires that residential subdivisions preserve tree canopy in an area of 15% of the development, with plantings for a total of 25% of the development area. All required tree canopy areas shall be permanently protected on the record books. Other tree protections are also provided.

    All those who attended and spoke in favor of the Tree Ordinance include Pam Dirschka, Maureen Rupe, Toni Shifalo, Kate and Tom Perez, Debbie Tomkinson, Mary Sphar, Laurilee Thompson, Dwight Severs, and Simon and Karre Stratford. This is another example of how a community that works together to take action at the podium versus on social media can make an impact.

    Kay St. Onge from the Titusville Tree Team says, "What a learning experience this has been over the last two and a half years. Let's keep the momentum going. Let's press for a Low Impact Development ordinance. Let's keep on pressing for measures to protect the Lagoon and the natural resources of our community and county."

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