Tree Advisory Board

The Tree Advisory Board was formed in 1990 to advocate for Gainesville’s Urban Forest. Comprised of five members, four of whom must have expertise in urban forestry, they have advised the City Commission on many important issues.

Tree Advisory Board Proposed Changes to the Land Development Code
Proposed changes to the Approved Tree List

Duties Southern Pine Beetle Planning
  • To act as the technical information collector/exchange forum on tree issues where citizens need coordination of information from varied sources.
  • To clarify tree regulations that exist in the city's codes and ordinances and make them known to city residents.
  • To act on referrals from the City Commission.
  • To guide the creation of a master tree plan for the city.
  • To assist in the development of the goals and objectives for the city's comprehensive plan with respect to trees.
  • To advise all departments of the city on tree issues.
  • To communicate general tree information and develop tree projects that would benefit the community.
  • To serve as the Tree Board of Appeals (three of the five members) for protests regarding the decisions to remove dangerous or dead trees from City property.
In 1996 and 2000, Gainesville was the epicenter of two epidemics caused by the Southern Pine Beetle. While there are many beetle species that kill pines, Southern Pine Beetle is unique in its ability to spread very rapidly. If these infestations had been allowed to proceed unchecked, 50% of the pines on the home properties of Gainesville residents would have been killed. Potential removal costs were estimated at $9 million. In each case the Tree Advisory Board recommended the City Commission undertake a suppression program, as requested by the Florida Division of Forestry. This program cost $200,000. The resulting cost to home owners was less than $1 million. The Tree Advisory Board has followed up with a proposal to change regulations in the Land Development Code that will minimize Gainesville’s vulnerability to Southern Pine Beetle infestations and reduce the intensity of future epidemics. Gainesville’s Comprehensive Plan identifies two goals relative to the urban forest: “Improving urban spaces through preservation and enhancement of the urban forest,” and “Maintaining the City’s commitment to preservation of the urban forest and street trees as a defining feature of our community.” The objective that measures this the amount of tree canopy coverage. The commitment adopted in 2000 was that this value would not fall below the 1994 percentage of 60%, except in event of a natural catastrophe. When University of Florida researchers determined the 2005 value to be 50%, the Tree Advisory Board investigated and has proposed changes in development regulations.
Code Change Proposal
In 2000 and again in 2008, the Tree Advisory Board proposed changes to the Land Development Code. The most recent effort was presented to the City Commission on December 18, 2008, which directed the Planning and Development Services Department to prepare the petition for review by the Plan Board. After the Plan Board considers the proposal and makes a recommendation, it will be considered a final time by the City Commission. The goals that guided the efforts of the Tree Advisory Board are:
  • Provide real protection for Heritage trees in all zoning classes (including giving the City Commission’s Advisory Boards authority to recommend financial mitigation under very specific circumstances for very valuable trees).
  • Create sufficient space for young shade trees so that they can grow to maturity without disrupting buildings, sidewalks or streets.
  • Clarify street buffer shade trees, Gainesville Regional Utilities line separation requirements, and Public Works clear zone safety requirements are all equally important, so future development allows sufficient space for all three.
  • Diminish Gainesville’s vulnerability to Southern Pine Beetle epidemics through post-development spacing of pines at 25’ which diminishes the insects’ capacity for rapid and relentless population increase.
  • Bring required tree protection, planting, and invasive exotic control efforts into alignment with the practices that yield the best results based on information from scientific research.
  • Update the Gainesville Approved Tree list first assembled by the Board in 1976 and revised in 2000.
  • Clarify the roll of the Tree Advisory Board and the Tree Appeals Board, especially with respect to potential financial mitigation decisions that might result from the proposed Code changes.