José Oliva sends firm reminder to cities to back off tree ordinances

By Janelle Irwin Taylor
January 16, 2020

House Speaker José Oliva is sending a not-so-subtle message to local governments not to over-step their authority.

Oliva sent letters to 488 local governments within the states reminding them that they are no longer allowed to enforce local tree ordinances restricting property owners from trimming or removing trees on their property.

He sent the same letter to more than 72,000 tree businesses who work with local governments.

“People should be free to protect their families and homes from trees and landscaping that poses a risk to them,” Oliva said. “The House takes seriously its duty to protect the rights of Florida residents and property owners and prevent government interference with those rights.”

The Florida Legislature approved — and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last year — legislation preempting regulations on tree trimming and removal on private property. The bill applied retroactively, rendering already existing ordinances invalid.

Oliva decided to send the letters after learning of a Miami resident who was threatened with a $24,000 fine for trimming a tree on his property. The family planted the tree years earlier, but it had become a nuisance on the property, lifting the family’s driveway from its foundation.

But the family didn’t obtain the required permits.

Nevertheless, Oliva says the 2019 law protects families like that.

“As you serve your clients, you may have encountered local government standing in your way or threatening sanctions or even levying fines for simply doing what you know, in your training and experience, to be the correct thing to do. Those days are over,” Oliva wrote in his letter to contractors.

Local governments took issue with the law as another in a stream of attacks on local governing authority.

But supporters contend the law is necessary to protect property rights and prevent government overreach.

Oliva is advising any residents experiencing issues with local governments ignoring the law to contact his office.

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