Effective July 1st, 2019, HB 1159 (F.S. 163.045) prohibits local governments from requiring “a notice, application, approval, permit, fee, or mitigation for the pruning, trimming, or removal of a tree on residential property if 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.”
This bill was sponsored by Rep. Mike La Rosa and Co-sponsored by Rep. Anthony Sabatini and was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 26. 2019.
On August 8th, 2019, Rep. Sabatini issued an open letter to express his opinion that “the Florida Legislature has expressly preempted local government” from dangerous tree removal matters. The letter and text are posted below.
During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 1159, Private Property Rights. Since that time, a large amount of misinformation has been deliberately spread about the legislative meaning of the Bill by those who disagree with the philosophy of HB 1159. Among those who have purposely misrepresented the Bill are several local governments, presumably because they are perturbed by the effect of the Bill, which has been to eliminate the role of local government in the situation where a residential property owner in consultation with an arborist or landscape architect decides to remove a dangerous tree from their property.
The relevant language of HB 1159 could not be more clear:
“A local government may not require a notice, application, approval, permit, fee, or mitigation for the pruning, trimming, or removal of a tree on residential property if 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.”
As made clear by the Bill’s plain language, the local government no longer plays any role in either 1) determining a tree as “dangerous,” or 2) the owner’s decision to remove a dangerous tree. The designation of a tree as dangerous is made solely by the arborist or landscape architect in their professional opinion and expertise, and it is not supplemented, controlled, or effected (sic) in any way by a local government. It is my opinion that the Florida legislature has expressly preempted local government from requiring a notice, application, approval, permit, fee, or mitigation when the property owner obtains the proper documentation for a tree’s removal. Therefore, any local government that seeks to enforce its local tree ordinances in this situation likely runs afoul of HB 1159 and violates the new law.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the Florida Legislature recently passed House Bill 829, Attorney Fees and Costs. HB 829 allows a prevailing party to be awarded attorneys fees, costs, and damages when a civil action is filed against a local government to challenge the adoption or enforcement of an expressly preempted local ordinance. It is my opinion that any local government that interfere’s with the decision of a property owner to remove a dangerous tree – or an arborists (sic) or landscape architect’s designation of a tree as “dangerous,” should be made aware that doing so may run afoul of the law with consequences.
Representative Anthony Sabatini
Florida House of Representatives, District 32.
(This letter is not a legal opinion and should not be relied upon as legal advice)
Text captured on September 5th, 2019 from a Facebook Post posted by @VoteSabatini on August 8, 2019. Links added by Dark Moss in lieu of Footnotes 2 and 3. Footnote 1 added parenthetically by Dark Moss.
The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) has a Code of Ethics. The Florida Chapter ISA issued a position paper on HB 1159 as well as a post on ethics in arboriculture.
Florida Licensed Landscape Architects are not subject to a statutory ethics requirement, but other associated professional organizations may require an ethics code. For example, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Code of Professional Ethics can be viewed here.
Dark Moss has an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist® and a Florida licensed Landscape Architect on staff.
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