A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
JULY 8, 2008
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special Budget Workshop session on Tuesday, July 8, 2008, at 9:00 a.m., in Training Room 233, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Elaine Renick; and Linda Stewart. Commissioner Debbie Stivender was not present. Others present were Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.
Mr. Brian Sheahan, Director of Planning and Community Design, explained that this part of the workshop was on the landscape code revisions that they had been in the process of working on for some time. He mentioned that the Local Planning Agency (LPA) had put significant work into this ordinance as well as many members of staff and outside agencies.
Mr. Grant Wenrick, Landscape Architect, gave a brief overview of the ordinance and some highlights of the ordinance changes, stating that they looked at a few areas of this ordinance that they would like to amend, including the residential water use and irrigation requirements, buffer areas, street trees required, and retention pond landscaping. He explained that they took the plant list and separated that as a separate document, which would shorten the ordinance. He noted that the plant list identified the plants that were native and identified typical water use requirements for the different plants that were on the list.
Mr. Sheahan informed the Board that they would be bringing that plant list to the Board for approval at the same time as the ordinance and that this would allow staff to bring forth an amendment to the Board in a quick manner as new information was available without an amendment to the ordinance.
Mr. Wenrick reported that some of the highlights of the changes were the requirement of 50 percent of plants to be native; diversity of plants to protect against disease; slight increase of required tree sizes; prohibiting the use of St. Augustine sod in an effort to conserve water; prohibiting the use of cypress mulch, which was a renewable resource; limiting the use of palm trees in parking areas; and the increase of a canopy tree requirement from six trees per acre to ten trees per acre for commercially developed land. He stated that one of the key components at a residential setting was to require non-turf landscape areas with Florida-friendly native plants for 35 percent of the landscape area, which would save 8,000 gallons of water annually per home site. He went over some proposed water conservation and irrigation improvements, including the encouragement of the use of micro-irrigation and alternate water sources and limiting the use of overhead irrigation. He also went over some tree removal changes and noted that mitigation in this ordinance was based on tree size rather than tree count.
Mr. Sheahan asked the Board for input on some of the comments that they received from both staff and the private sector mentioned in the memo, and stated that they would be discussing what some of the options were for these comments and what direction they saw the ordinance going in.
Commr. Renick commented that they should keep their goals and what they were trying to accomplish in mind while going through these comments, which were that they were trying to promote water conservation, tree canopy, and preserving existing trees. She also noted that they wanted to discourage anything that was overly intrusive or anything that would discourage redevelopment or improvements to property.
Mr. Sheahan explained that the first comment involved vesting provisions and concern over what to do with projects that were pending. He related that the options in this case were to either exempt the ones that were pending, exempt presubmittals or pre-applications within a certain time period, or keep the ordinance as proposed.
Commr. Cadwell commented that it would make more sense to him to have an effective date rather than have staff decide which applicants were vested, and he thought this also should include the people that were in the fast track process that have already gone through presubmittal.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, commented that they would want to avoid someone just putting an application in and doing nothing for two years, and suggested that there should be some kind of end date that would state if the application was received prior to the effective date, they would not have to comply with that as long as they got final approval within a designated and reasonable amount of time.
Mr. Sheahan added that if they kept this ordinance on track, it would give someone about 60 days to get in, and they would have to submit site plan approval within six months.
Mr. Minkoff commented that six months was a reasonable time period when a St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) permit was involved.
Mr. Sheahan went on to explain that Comment 2 referred to the monitoring and enforcement of existing residences and businesses, but that existing residences and subdivisions would not be impacted unless there was a trigger for the thresholds of nonconforming provisions, which would be addressed in the upcoming comments. He stated that the provision referenced in the third comment, which related to termination of nonconforming development, existed in the current code and would not apply to landscaping. He went on to relate that Comment 4 had to do with minor changes to the site plan. He stated that they had provided a discussion and a response regarding what the threshold would be, and there was a cost involved for some applicants, which staff felt was reasonable. However, it would be a significant issue when that nonconforming provision kicked in deciding whether it should stay at 25 percent improvement to the site which it currently was or whether it should be higher, or there could be a square footage cap for compliance. This would typically be for larger projects, such as for the Beall’s store at Eustis Village with 17,000 square-foot additions, but it would be quite an undertaking for them to be required to bring the entire site into compliance with the ordinance.
Commr. Renick thought this was one of the areas of the ordinance where she thought there was a problem, and she was concerned that this issue could discourage any kind of redevelopment and that people would have second thoughts about improving their property if they would end up having to re-landscape the whole thing. She wanted to know what would be recommended to keep from hurting businesses or hindering businesses from expanding.
Mr. Sheahan related that one of the provisions that staff was proposing was using the 25 percent threshold, and they realized that landscaping the entire property could be a significant burden. However, they believed that the 25 percent threshold has typically not been an issue now that the new provision was in there, so he was not sure that square footage was absolutely necessary.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that they take out the square footage altogether. He commented that as far as redevelopment, if they were changing use, they would also be hit with impact fees that would increase the cost and might make it cost prohibitive for small businesses.
Mr. Sheahan went on to discuss Comment 5 regarding nonconforming landscaping, stating that staff believed that this would not be an issue, since it requires buffering of only the improved structure if the threshold is less than the requirement for full compliance.
Mr. Minkoff added that under the current code, this would only apply if there was an increase in parking area of 25 percent. The new proposed code also added an increase of two parking spaces to that provision, so that was a significant change. He noted that the definition of substantial improvement referred to the proposed code was rebuilding at a cost of 50 percent or more of the value of the original structure.
Commr. Hill asked if businesses would be exempt if they had to rebuild due to a natural disaster.
Mr. Sheahan answered that there were no exclusions for disasters.
Commr. Renick asked if they could leave the substantial improvement provision in there, but add an exemption for hurricane or storm damage.
Mr. Minkoff pointed out that he believed for regular and nonconforming uses, if a building was destroyed, they had two years to rebuild it without having to meet the new codes, but that was not placed in the landscape section. He noted that this provision was under Termination of Nonconforming Development on Page 2, Line 50 of the proposed ordinance.
Mr. Sheahan recommended that they take the substantial improvement provision entirely out and put in a provision for natural disasters and storms. He also commented that if it was an onerous requirement, the applicant could apply for a variance.
Mr. Minkoff related that an alternative would be to put a specific dollar value on the substantial improvement which would let the smaller improvements go forward. He also pointed out that variances are not always easy to obtain, they cost several hundred dollars, and they took three months to get.
Commr. Renick commented that she was a little uncomfortable leaving C (regarding square footage) out altogether.
Mr. Sheahan stated that Comment 6 had to do with providing an exemption for parks and natural lands, which were typically conservation properties, stating that putting in a prescribed landscape there was actually inconsistent with the long term viability of the property. He noted that this was not an exemption for a government agency or any other nonprofit that was managing a natural land, but simply an exemption providing the flexibility needed to maintain that in a natural system.
Commr. Cadwell commented that he was comfortable with the provision stating that they had to have an approved management plan.
Commr. Renick commented that all PLAAC (Public Lands Acquisition Advisory Council) properties had a specific management plan.
Mr. Sheahan stated that Comment 7 noted that the ordinance provided no exemption for affordable housing or workforce housing projects, which was pointed out by staff. He informed the Board that their options were to place a provision in the ordinance for that or provide a specific reduction for workforce or affordable projects. They could also adopt the regulations as proposed and reduce the requirements of developments that were Planned Unit Developments (PUD) that have an affordable housing component.
Commr. Cadwell commented that even though the dollar amount was important for workforce or affordable housing, there was some value in what the community would look like. There was a consensus to go with Option A to adopt the regulation as proposed with the PUD waiver granted for affordable housing.
Mr. Sheahan explained that Comment 8 brought up the fact that the soil analysis might be a significant requirement and that a request was made to change the word “shall” to “should” to encourage rather than require the soil analysis, because on a large site there might be up to seven types of soil on the property that had various soil retaining properties. He informed the Board that the options were to relocate the requirement to General Landscape and change “shall” to “should” in the sentence (Option A), because this could potentially be expensive for an applicant, or to adopt the regulations as proposed.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he was alright with Option A.
Mr. Sheahan related that Comment 9 was the requirement to keep mulch two feet away from the foundation of homes, which staff and outside contacts felt was reasonable due to moisture problems. He related that their options were to delete or increase the requirement or to adopt the regulations as proposed.
Commr. Cadwell thought that they would leave the regulation as proposed for now, but had reservations about that.
Commr. Renick remarked pertaining to Comment 8 that she was concerned that if they changed the “shall” to “should,” it would not get done.
Mr. Sheahan explained that they did have general and specific soils maps that they could refer to that were done by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, but this would require very specific soil analysis for the site. He went on to explain that Comment 10 was a nonconforming issue which had to do with a provision in the code for existing lots, requiring a homeowner that replaces 50 percent or more of their lawn to use a drought tolerant grass. He related that there were comments from both the private and public sector that this might be difficult to enforce and might not achieve their goals.
Commr. Renick asked if they could come up with some language that was more reasonable and easier to enforce, such as replacing a front or a back yard.
Mr. Minkoff explained that the problem was an enforcement issue, because they would not know if it was done or not, since they did not have permitting for sod. He added that the code enforcement officer would need some sort of objective rule to go by when they went out to check it after a complaint was made.
Mr. Gregg Welstead, Director of Conservation and Compliance, brought up the fact that the wording of the requirement would also prohibit people from putting in Florida-friendly landscaping in place of sod.
Mr. Sheahan stated that they would work on something and bring it back to the Board for the hearing. He went on to discuss Comment 11, stating that the Water Management District had requested that they needed to examine the cost and availability of alternative sods before banning the use of St. Augustine grass for new construction. He reported that based on the discussions with the sod growers, some of the drought tolerant species were available but did cost a little bit more because of limited availability and the trademark. However, he felt that the institution of the requirement for only drought tolerant species would result in the market eventually driving the cost down as more was produced. As to Comment 12, which related to the requirement of functioning rain and soil-moisture sensor devices on all automatic irrigation systems to avoid irrigation during periods of sufficient rainfall, he stated that the statute only required one and that there was a comment made that only one sensor was needed.
Commr. Cadwell wanted to just go with the rain sensor and to delete the requirement for the soil-moisture sensor.
Mr. Sheahan continued to explain that they have had significant discussion regarding Comment 13 about efficient and well-design irrigation. He related that the Water Management District had taken issue with the three water use zones and felt that this requirement was encroaching into their jurisdictional authority. They wanted a change regarding the limitation of the amount of watering from being required to being encouraged, and they were recommending changing the word “shall” to “should.” He noted that the Cooperative Extension service took issue with this also, because in their experience and opinion, it did not work and was difficult to enforce and to implement. He related that their innovative suggestion was to limit the amount of installed above-ground irrigation, which would essentially limit the amount of installed irrigation to 20 percent of the pervious area of the lot. He commented that this would be far easier to enforce because the amount of property that had irrigation could be seen. The Board gave consensus for this option. He then pointed out that Comment 14 regarding efficient and well-design irrigation was moot because of the action taken in regard to Comment 13. He stated in regard to Comments !5 and 16 regarding native plants that the Water Management District was recommending only 50 percent of the plants to be native, and the LPA had recommended that they implement a 75 percent requirement after June 1, 2010, which would give the nursery industry a chance to catch up with providing the native plants. He noted that the SJRWMD opinion on this was that 75 percent was not necessary as long as the plants were Florida-friendly. He explained that Comment 17 was regarding the increased cost as a result of one of the changes in the ordinance designating canopy tree size from a two-inch caliper to a 2 ½ inch caliper. He commented that the 2 ½ inch caliper was deemed the most appropriate for initial installation. He explained that the options were to reduce the tree caliper to two inches or to adopt it as proposed.
Commr. Renick commented that when Clermont was working out the joint Land Development Regulations years ago, they had extensive discussions regarding this issue, and the consensus was to go with the larger trees. She did not feel they needed to go over this all over again and wanted to adopt the regulations as proposed.
Mr. Sheahan opined regarding Comment 18 involving the substitution of an ornamental tree for a canopy tree, that canopy trees are generally higher and provide more energy-efficient benefits than ornamental trees. Also, the same issue was brought up in Comment 19 regarding substituting palm trees for a canopy tree, and Mr. Sheahan commented that they did not provide the same benefits that canopy trees did. He informed the Board that their options were to change the provisions to allow for the substitutions or to adopt those as proposed. The Board wanted to leave those as proposed.
Mr. Sheahan explained that Comment 20 was concerned about what would be required for plant substitutions in a site plan. He stated that one of the key points was that they allowed an applicant to provide a certification letter to be sent for review by staff to approve those changes in the site plan, which is a change from the current provision that requires a new copy for any changes to the landscape plan and which he felt was a benefit to the applicant in getting their plans through. He went on to explain that Comment 21 regarding diversity was taken care of with the aforementioned change regarding 20 percent of installed irrigation. He stated that for Comment 22 regarding diversity, staff was recommending a change to make it understandable and clear, which would be Option A, amending that section to delete minimum percentages and placing a general provision in the main section heading for a 25 percent diversity requirement. Regarding Comment 23, he stated that if someone was proposing temporary irrigation on a landscape plan, all they simply needed to do was to put it on the plan, and he commented that Comment 24 regarding putting in a provision stating that irrigation would not be required to be installed on any residential lot would not be needed, as it was inherent throughout the ordinance.
Mr. Sheahan went on to explain that Comment 25 was just a notification question, but they just wanted to make sure that anyone buying a lot who was required to plant a street tree was aware that they were responsible for that tree even though it was not directly on their property. He stated that Comment 26 pointed out that the changes in the ordinance could have a financial impact because a couple of buffers were being required, and what were optional ornamental trees before were now required, which added to the cost. Also, a few of the buffer yards required walls and/or berms, and that would be a cost addition. Comment 27 concerns the stage at which the ordinance would apply, and he clarified that if something was already approved and platted, it would not have to meet the landscaping standards in this ordinance. He stated that there was an exemption mentioned in Comment 28 under General Buffer Requirements for the buffer requirements for very small, generally semi-rural areas where the density was less than one unit per acre. He specified that the options were to delete the exemption or accept the regulation as proposed.
Commr. Cadwell commented that he did not know if they needed that one.
Mr. Sheahan related that the LPA discussed this and thought it was an appropriate exemption. He went on to explain that Comment 29 brought up the fact that the last sentence of the section regarding landscape buffer and general buffer requirements was in conflict with another provision and that staff was requesting to delete that sentence because of that conflict. The Board gave consensus to delete that. He stated that Comment 30 was regarding exemption of certain residential zoning districts from providing street trees which staff deemed appropriate. Comment 31 regarding access roads adjacent to subdivisions had to do with instances where they had roads specifically moved very close to property lines for a subdivision. This has caused a lot of concern by property owners that they were being adversely impacted by all the subdivision traffic traveling immediately adjacent to the lots. The LPA had discussed this at length, and they felt very strongly that this provision be included. He noted that the same instance applied to Comment 32.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
The Chairman announced that there would be a fifteen-minute recess at 10:07 a.m.
LANDSCAPE ORDINANCE (CON’D)
Mr. Sheahan continued the discussion of the Landscape Ordinance by picking up with Comment 33, which stated that there was really no substantial variance for substantially different zoning districts. He stated that if someone believed that the buffer yard in a certain area was appropriate, there was always an option of requesting a variance. He went on to explain that Comment 34 had to do with changes in the table and the concern that all like uses should not require a buffer. He noted that the regulations by the LPA have reduced some of the buffer requirements in the residential and the commercial categories. He mentioned that this was discussed at one of the public hearings recently regarding buffers between industrial uses. He commented that whether to eliminate those buffers would be a decision for the Board to make, but he opined that the buffers for more rural areas with low density settings may not be necessary, because there were no impacts. The options to address this concern were to eliminate the buffers between industrial districts and to consider elimination or reduce buffers between like residential uses of similar density.
There was a consensus for Option B to eliminate or reduce buffer requirements between residential uses. Commr. Cadwell asked if there was a way to separate heavy manufacturing out from the other uses.
Mr. Sheahan responded that they currently had a provision in the Code for a buffer requirement for heavy industrial uses when they were adjacent to less intensive uses, and they did not think it was appropriate to eliminate that.
There was also a consensus to accept Option A to eliminate or reduce buffer requirements between LM, HM, and MP Zoning Districts.
Mr. Sheahan stated that on Comment 35, there were some significant changes to the buffer types, and specified that there were five buffer types in the County now. He specified that the ordinance proposed to eliminate the current template with buffer A, but it did provide two new widths associated with buffers, with the same kind of changes for buffer B, C, and D and pointed out that there were width alternatives now. He commented that the buffers were typically the same amount of trees with some exceptions and that there were additional requirements for walls, fences, and/or berms that were associated with increases in width. He informed the Board that the recommendations or options were to add that to the existing list, to reduce the amount of trees required as the width increases, which would provide an incentive to the property developer, or to adopt it as proposed.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he liked Option B, which was to reduce the amount of trees required for the wider options by 20 percent as the buffer becomes wider. The Board was still undecided about that issue, but decided to go on to the next issue.
Mr. Sheahan stated that Comment 36 reflected some concern that the new requirements for walls and berms were excessive, especially those typically required in the wider buffers. The Board’s options were to accept the regulation as proposed, reduce or eliminate buffers between specific categories, or eliminate the requirement for walls and berms.
The Board decided to go with Option A, which was to accept the regulation as proposed.
Mr. Sheahan stated that Comment 37 was a concern that additional buffer requirements would incur additional cost, but that staff felt this was a modest cost. He also noted that the ordinance clarified that when there were two adjoining properties with one of them already containing the buffer, that buffer would count toward the buffer credit, which would result in a cost reduction. He stated in reference to Comment 38, Supplemental Requirements for Subdivisions, that there were comments about allowing plastic fences. He related that the LPA discussed that item at length and did not feel that plastic was an appropriate material for fences when they were required. He reported that the options were to accept the regulation as proposed or to add plastic to the list of materials. He further clarified that plastic referred primarily to PVC type fences.
Commr. Cadwell commented that that was the material they were using in many of the County’s parks, and he did not think they should eliminate that option, since the County was using them extensively.
Commr. Renick thought they should find a different word to use in the ordinance other than plastic.
Mr. Sheahan stated that Comment 39 opined that the need for ten trees per acre was excessive, which was an increase from the current requirement of six trees per acre. He related that this item was discussed at length by the LPA, and it was pointed out that some cities required 18 trees per acre. He commented that staff had initially proposed this and thought this was an appropriate number of trees. He explained that the options were to accept it or to reduce the number of trees required.
Commr. Renick stated she believed they should accept the regulation as proposed (Option A), since they wanted to get people to preserve existing trees.
Mr. Sheahan explained that Comment 40, referring to interior parking areas, claimed that this section was not clear in terms of staging and storage areas. He described an instance in the Christopher C. Ford Industrial Park with a very large staging area because of all the distribution facilities, where the trucks had to sit and idle until they were ready to load, and noted that was considered parking area in the current code, so the recommendation was that they provide an exemption for those areas.
The Board gave consensus to accept the regulation as proposed (Option B).
Mr. Sheahan went on to explain that Comment 41, which also referred to interior parking areas, expressed the opinion that the requirement that 50 percent of all trees be Live Oak was not appropriate. He commented that the City of Clermont has an even higher requirement of oak trees in their parking areas. He specified that their options were to accept the regulation as proposed or to delete the requirements.
Commr. Cadwell inquired whether the island sizes they currently had designated were large enough.
Mr. Sheahan responded that they were proposing an increase to three hundred square feet from 200 square feet, which was what was currently required, and that 300 square feet would be appropriate in his opinion for the live oak trees.
Commr. Renick opined that having the appropriate size island was absolutely vital, because it would not do any good to put a live oak tree in a smaller island and then have it die due to the roots not having enough room. It was decided to go with Option A to accept the regulation as proposed.
Regarding Comment 42, Mr. Sheahan reiterated that the 50 percent requirement for Live Oak trees in parking lots was appropriate. He stated that Comment 43 was inquiring whether intermediate landscape islands would break the no-more-than-ten-in-a-row rule and why they would need more on a larger parking lot if that was the case. He explained that the intermediate landscape islands were in addition to the terminal landscape islands, and it broke up the parking so that there was not a long line of parking spaces before the terminal islands. In regard to Comment 44, Mr. Sheahan stated that they were proposing that all parking in excess of what was required had to be pervious. He stated that Comment 45 referred to the requirement that trees be planted within 40 feet from the top of the bank line for retention pond landscaping, and staff was recommending that they modify the section to include a ten-foot wide clear zone for maintenance, which would be Option A. The Board gave consensus for that.
Mr. Sheahan went over Comment 46 next, stating that septic tanks and drain fields were considered infrastructure, and as to Comment 47 stated that this was an annual requirement, and there was a handout in the packet that explained it. He specified that the new requirement specified that each home was required to provide 35 percent of the first floor footprint in something other than turf, since the principal water use they found was lawns, and this requirement was to get something else other than sod into the yards. He mentioned that the options were to accept the regulation of 35 percent as proposed or to delete or reduce the requirement. He opined that 35 percent was considered reasonable and was less than a typical front yard. He next explained that Comment 48 was a concern about the exemption for Agriculture, Ranchette, and Agriculture Residential zoning categories. He explained that they were exempt because they were typically larger and 2 ½ acres or greater, and 35 percent would be a very large area for these categories. He also added that most of the rural type settings where these zones occur would be pasture or some type of agriculture or equestrian use. He related that the Board’s options for this would be to accept the regulation as proposed or to delete the exemption. Comment 49 had to do with preservation of existing trees and the belief that the provision permitting the clearance of only five feet around the house was not adequate. He reported that the State was recommending a minimum of 30 feet of clear zone around the house in “fire wise” communities, since the fires in California as well as in the County were a real concern. He noted that this was considered by the LPA, who had serious concerns that this would result in undue clearing. He reported that the options were to increase the defensible space up to 30 feet, increase defensible space only in areas highly susceptible to fire, or adopt the regulation as proposed with a five-foot clearing.
Commr. Cadwell commented that he understood that they were trying to create canopies over the houses to help them become energy efficient, but he thought that they would have some other problems with canopy trees closer than 30 feet.
Mr. Sheahan pointed out that as proposed, if the distance was increased, it would not require removal, so the choice would be left up to the developer or homeowner to leave a tree within that space. He stated that what was in there now was a limitation.
Commr. Cadwell wanted to choose Option A, which was to increase the defensible space up to 30 feet, and there was a consensus for that option.
Mr. Sheahan stated that Comment 50 had to do with an existing portion of the code that had been greatly expanded, and there were currently only about five invasive species that required removal under the current code. He explained that this recommendation used the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s list as an authority of what was invasive in Florida, which contained Category 1 listings documenting invasive species of very serious concern. The concern was that if they required the removal as a condition for a Certificate of Occupancy, there could be a significant cost impact to that developer. He noted that their options were to limit the acreage that those invasives have to be removed from or adopt the regulations as proposed.
Commr. Renick thought this requirement was a little bit too intrusive, because she thought it was more realistic to move onto the property first before spending sometimes years working on getting rid of all the invasives.
Commr. Stewart thought it would prevent people from becoming homeowners.
Commr. Cadwell asked Mr. Sheahan if this provision could be deleted altogether and if there was any removal language in the current code.
Mr. Sheahan replied that there were provisions in the current code for removal of only five species. He clarified that they had a lot of flexibility with this and could limit the removal to within a certain amount of feet of the dwelling, to a certain acreage requirement, or based on its proximity to public lands.
Commr. Renick commented that they could be doing something else to encourage getting rid of invasives. She pointed out that it would be burdensome if the County could not open their parks on the land that they bought until they have eradicated every invasive plant.
Commr. Cadwell directed Mr. Sheahan to work on some language to bring back to the Board that would make common sense.
Mr. Minkoff clarified that they were looking for encouragement as opposed to requirement.
Mr. Sheahan went on to remark that Comment 51 had to do with exemptions to the tree removal permit requirements, and essentially what this issue revolved around was the need to remove or significantly prune trees as the County expanded or maintained roads. The concern here was that if they did require mitigation, there would be a significant cost to the public. He named the options for this issue, which were to remove the requirement that the trees be mitigated when done for maintenance purposes, modify the section to require relocation of protected trees, provide an exemption for dead or diseased trees that shall not require replacement or relocation, or adopt the regulations as proposed. He pointed out that this particular issue was directly tied to the next issue they would be discussing, which was the exemption in the current code for removal of less than three trees from mitigation, and if that provision was adopted, this would become less of an issue.
Commr. Renick commented that even though she understood the need for it and she knew Public Works went through great lengths to save every tree, she was concerned that the County would be getting preferential treatment under this provision. She thought that if they were able to remove dead or diseased trees without any mitigation, the public should be able to do that as well.
Mr. Jim Stivender, Jr., Public Works Director, explained that they budgeted for the tree removals and that there were never more than one or two at a time. He explained that the replacement and finding funds for that was a challenge. He emphasized that the cost so far this year has been about $30,000 for tree removal and was over $100,000 two years ago, and the replacement cost would be four-fold if replacement was also required.
Commr. Stewart thought the public would rather spend that money on improving roads and other important services.
Commr. Renick thought it would be intrusive to a private landowner to replace a tree that had to be removed due to a natural disaster or some other cause.
Commr. Cadwell thought they should go with Option C which included an exemption for the replacement of dead and diseased trees and mentioned that the private homeowner would be discussed in the next discussion.
Mr. Sheahan stated that Comment 52 was about tree removal exemptions regarding replacements, and he noted that the current code provided for mitigation when there was an act of God, such as a lightning strike, or for a hazard tree that was breaking up the slab of the home or the driveway or getting into the septic field. He listed the options regarding this issue, including deleting the section of 9.02.04 that required a permit for hazard trees; amending the section to limit the replacement of hazard trees to one tree; providing an exemption, which was in the current code, for single-family or duplex owners for one to three trees; and adding a new provision to limit the caliper inches to 20 or higher and within any three-year period. He pointed out that the exemption for removal of less than three trees would take care of a lot of the roadway concerns as well.
Commr. Cadwell thought that they might not need Option A if they went with Option C.
Mr. Minkoff commented that during the hurricanes, there were people with five or ten acre lots that had a lot more than three trees knocked down. He thought they would have to consider that in the case of a natural disaster.
Commr. Renick stated that there should be some kind of language added for during those times.
Commr. Cadwell commented that Option A and C together would cover both problems.
Mr. Sheahan mentioned that the requirement on Option C of not exceeding a total of twenty caliper inches would be at the discretion of the Board.
Mr. Minkoff related that Option A and C are separate in the current code, so the hazard tree, no matter how big it was, could be taken down, but the exemption for the trees of up to 20 inches were for the non-hazardous ones.
There was consensus for Option A (delete section that required a permit and replacement for hazard trees) and Option C (amending the section to allow removal of one to three trees for single family and duplex lot owners, not exceeding a total of 20 caliper inches within any three year period) together.
Mr. Sheahan explained that Comment 53 had to do with mitigation of replacement trees and whether they could be used in the required landscape. He listed the Board’s options for this issue, which were to amend the section to make it clearer that replacement trees may be used to meet the landscape requirements or to leave the regulation as is. He opined that it was not clear in the ordinance and could be interpreted differently. Comment 54 expressed concern of whether a new heritage tree classification was necessary in addition to the historic and specimen tree classifications. He explained that the heritage tree was one of significant size and quality, which was viewed by the LPA as requiring additional protection.
Commr. Hill asked what the difference was between the definition of a historic and a heritage tree.
Mr. Sheahan responded that historic trees were those that had some kind of historical significance, such as the hanging tree in front of the courthouse that was the survey marker for a particular section line, but the heritage tree was one that was 40 inches in diameter and 10 feet in circumference, which was a very large tree.
Mr. Minkoff clarified that the difference was that even though both require Board approval, the heritage tree also has to have a Board of Adjustment variance.
The Board gave a consensus to use Option A, which was to adopt the regulation as proposed.
Mr. Sheahan explained that Comment 55 was regarding the belief that changing the regulation for designation of protected trees from four inches to three inches was not justified and would cost the homeowner more money. He commented that the purpose of the provision was to protect existing native and Florida-friendly trees. He named the options, which were to keep the three-inch provision or to increase it back to four inches.
The Board decided to go with Option A, which was to adopt the regulation as proposed.
Mr. Sheahan stated that Comment 56, which was similar to Comment 55, had to do with reducing the tree size to two inches versus the existing four inches. He pointed out that these were rare habitats such as rare sand pines and xeric scrub oak communities where the resources needed additional protection. He mentioned that their options were to keep the provision as proposed or increase it back to four inches.
The Board wanted Option A, to keep it as proposed.
Mr. Sheahan explained that in Comment 57 there was concern that requiring the as-built survey at the end would add a high cost to the applicant. He related that staff had commented that these were not really necessary for review, since they already reviewed the application at submittal, and there were provisions for doing modifications or amending those plans. He also emphasized that this would only be required when doing a structural change certified by an engineer, but a change to the landscaping would not need an as built drawing and that requiring an as built could really slow up an application. The Board agreed with this assessment. He then went over Comment 58, which was something that had been requested by contractors and developers for some time to provide flexibility to the developer regarding installation of landscaping. He explained that they needed some kind of provision in there that would not require the developer to plant in the dry season, since it was a lot more water intensive to plant then. This option would provide a provision that would allow them to defer the actual planting to the right time of year in an effort to save water.
Commr. Cadwell mentioned that the current code did not allow a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) until all landscaping was in place, and asked what the phrase “allow flexibility” meant. He also was concerned about the sentence stating that this would allow the developer to install required street trees in the right of way as each residence was developed.
Mr. Sheahan explained that the flexibility meant that if they wanted to install the trees, they could.
Mr. Minkoff explained that one of the requirements was that there were trees along the street in a new subdivision, and the ordinance authorizes those trees to be on the lots and not in the right of way. He related that the reasoning was if the tree was put on the lot before the house was built, there would not be anyone to take care of the tree, but this would allow them to delay planting that street tree until they built the house. He also noted that there was a provision requiring the developer to give the County a bond to ensure that it would get planted if they elected to delay it.
Commr. Renick stated that she had no problem delaying it if they had the security of the bond to make sure that was done.
Mr. Sheahan talked about Comment 59, which was a general comment addressing the concern that the provisions in the proposed ordinance would require intense training and expansion of the landscape inspection program. He commented that they felt that they had adequate staff at this time, but should there be an increase in development, then maybe they would need to hire additional staff and/or staff with certain expertise. He wanted to make the Board aware that there could be some costs incurred.
Commr. Renick commented that she believed there may have to be training within the staff that would have to take place, but she was not sure it would require additional staff.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 11:40 a.m., the Chairman announced that there would be a ten-minute recess.
LOT GRADING ORDINANCE
Mr. Jim Stivender, Jr., Public Works Director, physically demonstrated lot grading principles using props and stated that they would discuss some of the problems they encountered which prompted the need for this ordinance. He mentioned that a 3,000 square foot house on a one to five-acre tract was not a problem, but logistical problems started when there was that size home on a half-acre or smaller lot. He clarified that residential lot grading addressed the problem of when there was a large house on a small lot with slopes, which did not pertain to a lot of areas in Lake County. Their main focus was to address situations in which neighbors were impacting each other or stormwater was impacting adjacent properties and how this proposal would try to address and manage that situation. He reported that new subdivisions that had come in since 2003 have had a pad design on every single lot, so they actually set the pad elevations on all those new subdivisions since then. He stated that the dilemma was that someone would always try to challenge that, and they have run into situations that have impacted everyone else around them. He related that they have tried to work with the developers of new subdivisions so that they could address the individual lot pads when they have a small deviation, but they had hundreds of lots in subdivisions that still did not have those types of criteria that they have had to address.
Mr. Ross Pluta, Development Review Engineer, Public Works Department, gave a power-point presentation on single family lot grading, which was noted as an important part of the development process in order to avoid serious drainage and erosion problems. He went over the existing regulations regarding lot and subdivision grading, including Section 9.07.09, which provided general information about filling, grading, draining, erosion and flood protection of the single family lot. He also showed photographs illustrating lot grading problems such as excessive grading, lack of erosion protection, and encroachment into protected areas and neighboring property. He also showed examples that illustrated good lot grading principles. He asked for approval to advertise the Lot Grading Ordinance as reviewed and approved by the LPA.
Commr. Renick stated that it looked like part of the problem was that they did not have a limit in terms of impervious area for the footprint of a large house on a lot that size.
Mr. Stivender responded that if it met the setback, they could fill up the lot for the most part, depending on the ordinance in the PUD, and some of those did not have impervious service issues. He also added that one of the reasons they brought this forward was that residential lot grading has been a very sensitive issue because of additional requirements on those sites. He related that Mr. Fred Schneider, Director of Engineering, had spent a lot of time working with a lot of people on this to get the right mix of requirements so that the residential impact would be justified where there was a problem or any place where the slopes presented a challenge. He mentioned that staff had not done a lot of extensive research on the mass grading part, and that had been done by the LPA, which was why they felt uncomfortable going into more detail about that during this presentation. He also wanted to bring to the Board’s attention on Page 3 of the ordinance notes which listed deleted parts, stating that he wanted to insert back in Section C under Exempt Activities, “Additional impervious area of any size on a lot greater than one-half acre where the additional impervious area is set back at least twenty feet from the property line and where no earthwork takes place in the set back area.” He explained that it seemed like common sense to allow individuals to do certain things on their lots that were out of the setback areas and had no impact on their neighbor.
Ms. Hill commented that they had an initial discussion in March 2007 when they were having some problems with stormwater and lot grading, and they brought that forward and wanted staff to be able to address that and make some changes. She asked Mr. Stivender what he was looking at that he thought needed to be done when he first brought that to the Board.
Mr. Stivender responded that all the non-underlined parts in the ordinance handout were what they brought forward to discuss with them about residential lot grading only, and all the underlined parts were additions by the LPA. He commented that the small residential lot has always been a challenge, which was what they had focused their time on, but for commercial development, there were regulations in place. However, regulation of the management of the dirt on the individual house and lot had been a silent issue, and problems arising from that could add up to a lot of grief and arguments down the road, especially on a half acre tract or smaller.
Commr. Cadwell opined that they have all seen the situation Mr. Stivender referred to in their districts, and he wanted to move forward with that. However, he believed that the mass grading opened a whole other discussion, and he did not want this ordinance to get bogged down with the mass grading. He stated that he would rather take the mass grading out of this ordinance and take that issue up at a different time. He also did not think there were any scientific, environmental, or engineering reasons for some of the provisions regarding the mass grading requirements other than aesthetics.
Commr. Renick commented that it did come down to aesthetics and that this had been a huge issue in South Lake County regarding the hills. She thought that this would force potential buyers to determine whether a property was realistic for their intended use before purchasing it, instead of trying to make that property work for their project. She also opined that there would be instances where it would not fall under those basic cut and fill provisions, but there was a variance process. She pointed out that they had those requirements in Clermont, which were adopted to deal with some problems that arose there, and it has not proved problematic.
Commr. Hill opined that three of the proposed projects in the County’s industrial park would not be built under those regulations.
Commr. Cadwell commented that he was not comfortable with the mass grading right now, until it could be proved to him that it was based on something other than aesthetics. However, he did not want to slow the other portion of the ordinance down or cause it to fail.
Mr. Stivender explained that when they address the regulations for subdivisions and commercial lots after the Comprehensive Plan has moved forward, they could look at it, and it would probably be 2009 before they could get back to that.
Commr. Cadwell inquired whether the majority of the Board felt that they should take out the mass grading portion of the ordinance.
Commr. Stewart stated that perhaps they should do that so that they could move forward with the ordinance, but she believed that the mass grading was something that would need to be addressed. She also agreed that there were projects in the Christopher C. Ford Industrial Park that would not be built under this ordinance and that they needed to do additional work on the mass grading portion.
Commr. Hill agreed that she did not see leaving the mass grading portion in to advertise something she was not comfortable with.
Commr. Cadwell directed that they would advertise without the mass grading language in there, and deal with that issue at some other point.
Mr. Minkoff inquired about the lot size limits for the ordinance.
Mr. Stivender responded that they wanted to address lots that were a half acre or smaller, and they did not have issues with the lots larger than that. He also suggested exempting the permit and inspection fees for larger lots.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.
WELTON CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
NEIL KELLY, CLERK