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Urban Forestry

The City’s Tree Protection Ordinance establishes regulations that will assist in protecting, promoting and maintaining a healthy, diverse and mature urban forest.

Why is an urban forest important?

Trees preserve the ecological balance of the environment, control erosion, sedimentation and storm water runoff, provide shade, reduce heat and glare, reduce flooding, sequester carbon, enhance property values and aesthetics, abate noise pollution, and buffer incompatible land uses. For its commitment to preserving and enhancing the urban forest, the City of St. Petersburg has been awarded the Tree City USA award for 33 consecutive years, from 1986 to 2019.

What is House Bill 1159?

House Bill 1159 took effect July 1, 2019 and prohibits a local government from requiring a notice, application, approval, permit, fee, or mitigation for the pruning, trimming, or removal of a tree on residential property if the tree presents a danger to persons or property, as documented by a Certified Arborist or Licensed Landscape Architect. The bill does not apply to mangrove tree, non-residential properties or to vacant land. 

If you have obtained a Tree Report from a Certified Arborist or Landscape Architect for a dangerous tree on your property, please email it to trees@stpete.org so that the City may track your exemption and avoid unnecessary inspections or compliance actions.

I need an arborist service. Can the City help me?

The City will continue to provide low cost Certified Arborist service to our residents by having by an ISA Certified Arborist on staff conducting the required inspection for hazardous trees as well as trees which do not meet the criteria outlined as above. A record of the inspection and a report will be generated and kept on file once a Tree Removal Application has been submitted and the initial $25.00 inspection fee has been paid. Identified non-hazardous trees located on residential property and all trees located on commercial will continue to follow existing ordinances 16.40.060, LDC.

What are Protected, Grand Trees and Signature Trees?

Protected: Any shade tree 4” or larger diameter at breast height (DBH, as measured 4 ½ feet above ground); any understory tree which is 8” or larger DBH.
Grand: Any code protected tree which is 30 inches in diameter DBH or larger, except for Laurel Oaks. Grand Trees are afforded a higher level of protection and need to be preserved.
Signature: This is a category of non-native trees which due to the size, prevalence and history in our community warrant recognition and protection. Includes Banyan trees, Kapok trees that are 30” or larger DBH, and Jacaranda trees and Royal Poinciana trees that are 8” or larger DBH.

Protected, Grand and Signature Tree Informational Handout

How to I request an inspection or permit?

Tree Removal Applications can be submitted, tracked, and paid on-line through the Building Permit Portal or via e-mail at trees@stpete.org. Please call 727-893-4249 if you have any questions or concerns. The application is entered to the City’s permit database and staff endeavors to inspect the tree within 2-business days after the $25.00 initial inspection fee has been paid. Once the inspection has been approved by the City arborist and the permit fee has been paid, the tree removal permit is required to be posted in a manner that is clearly visible from the street. Tree Removal Permits are valid for 6-months.

What does a Tree Report look like?

A letter report is the format most typically utilized by certified arborists. The letter report is best suited for assessing one to three trees and is designed for situations where a detailed report is required by the permitting agency, to disclose the arborist’s professional opinion on the overall condition and location of the tree that the owner wishes to be trimmed or removed. For documentation to be considered satisfactory, letter reports must include:

  • The name, contact information, qualifications/certifications of the arborist preparing the report
  • Address where the tree(s) are located
  • Dates of inspection, report and photos
  • Tree information including dimensions, branching structure, root system, apparent wounds, infestations
  • Description of tree location on site and discussion of site conditions and potential targets if failures occur
  • Inspection method and discussion of equipment and methods used to assess tree condition
  • Assessment observations
  • Relevant photos of the tree
  • Conclusions drawn from the assessment and discussion of mitigation techniques available
  • Recommendations made to the property owner

Who qualifies as a Certified Arborist?

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is a member based professional organization offering credentials in the field of arboriculture. ISA Certified Arborists commit to follow a code of ethics, to which all Certified Arborists are expected to adhere. This can help ensure the honest reporting of tree health, structure and safety concerns to clients and regulatory bodies that must make decisions concerning tree removal. 

How does this affect my proposed development?

If there are Protected, Grand or Signature trees within 15-feet of the proposed construction, on the property or on adjacent property, then the trees need to be shown on the site plan, by size and species. If trees are proposed to be removed, or a Grand tree requires trimming of a branch 8” in diameter or greater, a permit will be required.

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City of St. Petersburg
P.O. Box 2842
St. Petersburg, FL 33731

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