Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

DOT, Port Authority Protest Cost of Tree Protection City Hall Cites Will of the Voters

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

DOT, Port Authority Protest Cost of Tree Protection City Hall Cites Will of the Voters

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein, Times-Union staff writer

When it comes to Jacksonville's tree-protection laws, the state Department of Transportation and the Jacksonville Port Authority want City Hall to cut them some slack.

Faced with the prospect of paying six-figure checks to comply with the city's regulations, officials with the transportation department and the port say there should be more flexibility so their costs will be less.

But the requests have not generated any support at City Hall. Mayor John Delaney's office, noting that voters overwhelmingly approved a tree-protection initiative in November, says the law should be applied in the same way to government agencies as to private developers.

The election "was one of the clearest expressions of the will of the community that we've seen in a long time," said Audrey Moran, chief of staff to Delaney.

The Jacksonville Port Authority paid $1 million last year and officials expect to ante up another $500,000 this year as a penalty for clearing trees to expand port facilities at Dames Point. The state Department of Transportation could face a $1.5 million payment in connection with cutting trees for construction of the Florida 9A beltway at Interstate 295.

The city law requires such payments whenever a construction project clears out trees and the development does not plant enough new trees on-site to compensate for the lost greenery. Money from the tree-protection fund is used to plant trees in various areas of the city.

Unlike homebuilders, who went to court in an effort to overturn the November election, state transportation officials aren't seeking any legal action in regard to the city's ordinance.

But state officials say they want the city to reconsider the effect of the law because the cost of compliance is rising in connection with roadwork, and paying to the tree-protection fund means less money for road construction.

From 2001 to 2006, the state's proposed budget for Duval County contains about $14 million for landscaping. …

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