Laws regarding grand trees and protected trees vary between municipalities, so a tree on one side of the street may be subject to different laws as a similar tree on the other side of the street. Make sure to verify what laws are relevant to your property. For example, unincorporated Hillsborough County has “grand oaks,” not “grand trees.”
Also, laws change and this page may not keep up with those changes. All information contained herein is provided as a courtesy introduction only and cannot be solely relied upon for any decision. Contact a professional or attorney who is familiar with your situation.
Beginning June 1st, 2019, a ‘grand tree’ is a listed tree with a trunk diameter of 32″ or greater. The list is:
The health of the tree does not matter, unless completely dead. A grand-sized tree in poor condition is still grand.
If it is not listed above, it most likely won’t be grand. If you can stand in front of a tree and wrap your arms around it, it is not a grand tree (except in the very rare circumstance that you are standing in front of a Champion or Challenger Tree). The trunk diameter is too small for the tree to qualify as grand.
If the tree is an invasive species, like an Australian Pine or Norfolk Island Pine, it can’t be grand. In some cases, you may actually be required to remove the tree just because it is invasive. A list of invasive species in Florida is maintained by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. The outlier here is that invasive Camphor Trees can still be considered to be grand.
Yes, you can.
First, figure out what kind of tree you have. For assistance, consider contacting a UF IFAS Extension Master Gardener to help identify the tree.
If the tree isn’t an invasive species, measure the trunk diameter. To measure the diameter, arborists use a diameter tape and wrap it around the trunk to get either or circumference or direct diameter conversion measurement. The measurement is taken from about 54″ above the ground, at roughly chest height. The same measurement can be taken with a measuring band like the ones used to get fitted for a suit or dress. A metal tape measure will not work. If you wrap the band all the way around the trunk and the measurement is greater than 100″ or about 8′-4″, then the tree is probably grand. If you have a tree survey that shows the diameter, then the tree will likely be grand if the diameter is equal to or greater than 32″ (but it is always worth having a consulting arborist verify that diameter measurement).
For more information: check out the City of Tampa Tree Information Page.
If your property is a brownfield site and tree removal is required to satisfy another agency’s (i.e. FDEP) environmental requirements, a grand tree can be approved for removal administratively through a Design Exception process. (This provision will likely not apply to homeowners)
If the tree is deemed to be ‘hazardous’ per standard arboricultural standards, removal can be permitted administratively.
If there is an emergency with a hazardous tree, removal can be permitted administratively and after the fact. There has to be an immediate or present risk to life and/or property and you have to apply for a follow-up permit within three working days after the removal.
If the tree is located near the center of your small lot, removal can be permitted administratively. This provision is called the “Tree Removal Zone” which has very specific definitions for what a small lot is and what areas of the lot qualify as the “center.” Contact a design professional to assist in determining whether this provision applies to your lot. (Dark Moss can assist in this determination) This provision only applies when associated with a building permit.
If the tree will be impacted by construction, removal can be permitted once the request is approved by a board or commission at a public hearing. Typically this is done through a variance request. Plans are prepared, letters are mailed, you or an attorney or agent attend a public hearing to discuss your case, some neighbors may attend as well or send in comments beforehand, and then the board votes on whether to allow the removal or not. If they do not approve of the removal, then the decision can be appealed to City Council.
Effective July 1st, 2019, If the tree is located on residential property and the property owner obtains documentation from an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture or a Florida licensed landscape architect that the tree presents a danger to persons or property, then “a local government may not require a notice, application, approval, permit, fee, or mitigation for the pruning, trimming, or removal of a tree.” This option stems from new state law.
You don’t have and aren’t being asked to remove it (unless it is in such bad condition that the city considers it to be dangerous).
But protection is intentional, and the city has specific requirements to make tree protection successful. Below is a draft tree protection detail in progress from 2017 (ignore “heritage tree”).
This detail won’t cover all construction scenarios, but a consulting arborist can help the design or construction team provide functional tree protection strategies.
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