Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 7, 2021
The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) addressed several agenda items at their August 3, 2021 Regular Meeting dealing with trees and conservation.
The City Commission, at their January 28, 2019 Goal Setting Workshop, established a goal to increase the City’s tree canopy coverage by a total of five percent by 2024. The Planning and Conservation Department provided the City Commission with a Tree Canopy Analysis and Tree Management Plan in August of 2019 and August of 2020.
In May of 2020, the City Commission amended the Land Development Code to increase the minimum mitigation requirements and set forth specific penalties for unpermitted tree removal in support of its established goal.
The Planning and Conservation Department formed an internal working group called the City Tree Committee, comprised of seven people, diverse in community interests, to serve to support the City’s urban forest.
The City Tree Committee conducted open and noticed public meetings between April 2021-July 2021. The City Tree Committee compiled a Final Report which is a culmination of four months of data gathering.
City Planner Daphne Forehand and Planning Technician Taylor Hartman presented the report to the FBCC in a series of slides, which provided detail information on the Committee’s goals, methodology, research and recommendations.
The Committee recommended that the FBCC goal of increasing the tree canopy by 5 percent by the year 2024 was not feasible, because it would involve planting 5,181 trees over a short period of time. They provided a visual representation of how much area would be needed to accommodate so many trees:
- Large scale plantings
- Small scale plantings
- Land Development Code Amendments
- Website reavamp
- Community action
- Designation of space for storing trees & supplies
The report also provided costs to achieve the goals:
The Tree Committee presented the following recommendations:
Commissioners lauded Committee members for their detailed presentation and plan. Commissioner Chip Ross agreed that a 5-year goal was not feasible, but wanted to revisit the length of time needed to meet this goal. He also questioned the need for purchasing a tree augur. Commissioner David Sturges expressed concerns over the identified cost per tree and the land needed to plant the trees. He suggested that the FBCC should revisit its goal and lower the number of trees to be planted while extending the time to do so to 8 or 9 years.
Mayor Lednovich expressed his concern that the City is not able to keep pace with the current tree loss.
Ross suggested that instead of approving the report, the FBCC “review and accept” the report, to allow for further discussion and adjustment. Other Commissioners agreed with his amendment and approved the motion on a 5-0 vote.
The FBCC unanimously approved the designation of “Protected Heritage Tree” for 8 Live Oak trees located in the City’s Central Park. Staff reported that both individually and collectively, these eight trees exceed the requirements established for Protected Heritage Tree designation.
Pursuant to Code of Ordinances Section 42-200, land management plans are to be provided to the City Commission for approval. The FBCC unanimously agreed to “review and accept” conservation management plans for properties acquired by the City at Jean Lafitte Avenue, Pheasant Lane, and N. 11th Street. These plans serve to meet minimum criteria for ongoing maintenance and monitoring of lands conserved.