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New Law Might Prune Tampa Trees

Treepedia screenshot of the areas in Tampa that are lined with trees and green space.
According to Treepedia, no other city in the world compares to the amount of green space and trees Tampa has.

By Erin O’Brien

Last March, the World Economic Forum and Treepedia ranked Tampa as the leading city in the world in the amount of green space and trees. A new law signed this week by Gov. Ron DeSantis might threaten the status.

The Florida House of Representatives passed a bill, HB 1159, by a vote of 77 – 36 on April 25. On Wednesday, DeSantis signed it into law.

The new law prohibits local governments from requiring a permit for the trimming or removal of a dangerous tree on residential property. The law also requires all property appraisers to let property owners know about these rights.

Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-District 32, was one of the co-sponsors of the bill. He said he believes that it’s not the government’s business to tell residents what to do with their trees.

The approval of the bill goes against original protections put in place almost 50 years ago by former Tampa City Council member and Hillsborough County Commissioner, Joe Chillura.

In 1972, Chillura drafted an ordinance that would help make Tampa a greener city by requiring residents who wanted to trim or remove a live oak tree to get a permit. Otherwise, they would face a fine. 

The ordinance seemed to be a success - Tampa achieved a 36.1 percent Green View Index, the highest amount of green space and trees of any city in the world, according to Treepedia.

Chillura and others unsuccesfully asked Gov. DeSantis to consider vetoing the bill, saying it could potentially reverse that progress.

“It’s beyond disappointing,” Chillura told the Tampa Bay Times.

Erin O’Brien is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for summer 2019.
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