Proposed amendments to the PVZDR

• Signage, Section X – Revisions to address viewpoint neutrality and clarify sign allowances based on zoning district, type (temporary or permanent), and location. Discuss subdivision and construction signage limitations.
• Vacated 34-foot Right-of-Way adjacent to Ponte Vedra Boulevard – Add language to Section VIII.D to require non-platted lots to measure setback from the vacated right-of-way in lieu of front property line. Amendment proposed (attached) to provide consistency for placement of replacement homes fronting Ponte Vedra Boulevard.
• Tree Protection – Residents have requested additional code regulations for protection of trees in the Ponte Vedra Zoning District for residential lots. Discussion of the proposed regulations crafted by community member, Mack McCuller, and Environmental staff to address land clearing, tree preservation, permitting, and mitigation for unauthorized removal. (Working draft of regulations attached)

Section I
After-the-Fact Compliance and Mitigation Permit: A Protected Tree Removal Permit issued after the unauthorized removal of a Protected Tree(s).
Diameter at Breast Height (DBH): The standard diameter measure of a single-trunked Tree at four and one-half (4 ½) feet above grade. When a Tree is Multi-Trunked, DBH shall be equal to the aggregate diameters of the individual trunks measured at four and one-half (4 ½) feet above grade. Where the individual stems are less than eight (8) inches in diameter, the largest three (3) trunks will be used.
Exempt Trees: Means species listed by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council or Florida Administrative Code section 5B-57.007 “State Noxious Weed List.” Exempt Trees may not be used for Tree inch value.
Multi-Trunked Tree: Any Tree that grows with two (2) or more trunks. For survey purposes, an existing Multi-Trunked Tree shall branch at a minimum of one (1) foot above grade and the DBH of all trunks shall be added together to obtain the total DBH.
Protected Area: An area surrounding a Protected Tree, a Historic Tree, or a Specimen Tree within which physical intrusion is prohibited in order to prevent damage to the Protected Tree and the roots and soil around the Protected Tree base; the dimensions of which shall be the Drip Line, centered at the Protected Tree.
Protected Tree Removal Permit: The permit issued by the County prior to removal of a Protected Tree.
Protected Tree: Any Tree having a Diameter at Breast Height of eight (8) inches or greater, excluding Exempt Trees. Native Southern Red Cedar (Juniperous silicicola) with a DBH greater than two (2) inches shall be a Protected Tree whenever it occurs within three (3) miles of the Atlantic Ocean and any Endangered Trees are to be Protected Trees. Any Tree preserved or planted to meet the requirements of this Code becomes a Protected Tree, regardless of size.
Remove or Removal: The actual physical removal of a Tree or plant or the effective removal through damaging, poisoning or other direct or indirect action resulting in or likely to result in, the death of a Tree or plant. Protected Trees that have been planted or preserved shall not be damaged by excessive pruning, shearing or topping of trees into round balls, topping, lion’s tailing, over raising, or any other pruning which results in a tree structure that will be susceptible to blow-over. All pruning shall be done following the American National Standard (ANSI 300) for Tree Care Operations, “Tree, Shrub and Other Woody Plant Maintenance – Standard Practices.”
Specimen Tree: A Specimen Tree is any Protected Tree with a DBH of thirty (30) inches or greater except for Live oaks (Quercus virginiana) which is a DBH of fifty (50) inches or greater, Sand Live oaks (Quercus geminata) which is a DBH of eighteen (18) inches or greater and Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) which is a DBH of twelve (12) inches or greater. .
Tree: A woody plant with a well-defined stem and crown capable of attaining a height of at least fifteen (15) feet with a trunk diameter of not less than two (2) inches, or a cluster of main stems having an aggregate diameter of not less than two (2) inches, at a point four and one-half (4 ½) feet above ground.
Tree Protection Barricade: Any Structure or device which protects preserved Trees and is to be installed at the Protected Area.

Tree Protections

  1. Purpose and intent.
    a. Purpose. The provisions of this Section are established for the purpose of enhancing, conserving, restoring, protecting and preserving the natural environment, specifically related to trees, in the Ponte Vedra Zoning District. Priority shall be given to the protection and preservation of existing tree resources.
    b. Intent. The provisions of this Section are intended to:
    (1) Establish efficient and effective procedures, regulations and guidelines for the protection of existing trees.
    (2) Promote and sustain community values by providing for an aesthetically pleasing environment where a healthy tree canopy is maintained and regenerated.
    (3) Protect natural systems and avoid impairment of their natural functions including the provision of shade and cooling on lots and development parcels, sidewalks, streets and other public places.
    (4) Encourage protection of healthy trees and provide for replacement and/or relocation of trees which are necessarily removed during construction, development or redevelopment.
  2. Applicability. All existing, proposed and reconfigured residential lots within the Ponte Vedra Zoning District shall be subject to the provisions of this Section.
  3. Relationship to land development regulations. The provisions of this Section of the Ponte Vedra Zoning Regulations shall be in addition to Article IV, St. Johns County Land Development Code, and applicable solely to existing, proposed or reconfigured residential lots within the Ponte Vedra Zoning District. In the case of any conflict between this Section and Article IV, Land Development Code, the provisions of this Section shall prevail. Terms not otherwise defined herein shall have the same definition as given under Article IV and Article XII, Land Development Code.
  4. Protected Tree Removal permit.
    a. Permits required. It shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, to cut down, destroy, remove, or effectively destroy by damaging, any Protected Tree on existing, proposed or reconfigured residential lots in the Ponte Vedra Zoning District without first obtaining Site Plan approval and a Protected Tree Removal permit.
    b. Permit application. Application for a permit required by this Section shall be in writing on a form provided by the County Administrator and submitted to the County with an application fee of twenty ($20.00) dollars per Protected Tree depicted for removal. The application shall include a Site Plan depicting:
    (1) Location of all Protected Trees to be retained, removed, relocated or planted, by species and DBH.
    (2) All existing and proposed structures, pools, fences, walls, driveways, exterior mechanical equipment, dumpsters, storm drainage retention areas, sidewalks and other improvements.
    c. Application review. Upon receipt of a complete application a review shall be made in accordance with this Section to determine any adverse effect upon the general public welfare, adjacent properties or County services and facilities. A Protected Tree Removal permit will be issued by the County Administrator upon a determination that at least one of the following criteria has been met:
    (1) The age and condition of the Protected Tree with respect to health of the Tree (disease, insect attack, danger of falling) as determined by a Certified Arborist, proximity to existing or proposed structures, or interferences with utility services.
    (2) The Protected Tree is located within the proposed Building Footprint or within an area five (5) feet outside of an existing or proposed Building Footprint and the property owner or agent cannot reasonably alter or revise the proposed improvements to avoid removal of existing Protected Trees.
    (3) The Protected Tree is located along a proposed perimeter fence line or within an area five (5) feet outside the footprint of a proposed pool or driveway and the property owner or agent cannot reasonably alter or revise the proposed improvements to avoid removal of existing Protected Trees.
    (4) The placement of a driveway or other improvement within any public property or public right-of-way cannot reasonably avoid Protected Tree removal.
    (5) Appropriate mitigation is being provided in accordance with this Section.
    d. Expiration of Protected Tree Removal permits. Upon approval of the application by the County Administrator the Protected Tree Removal permit shall be issued. Work pursuant to the permit shall be completed within six (6) months of the date of issuance, at which time the permit shall be deemed expired.
  5. The Permit shall be posted in a conspicuous and visible place at the front of the property. The Permit shall be protected from the weather and be located in such location by the Applicant promptly after issuance, during, and for a period not less than one month after the Protected Tree Removal and/or Land Clearing or until a Building Permit is issued, whichever occurs first. It is the responsibility of the Permit Applicant to maintain the Permit, or to promptly obtain a replacement copy from the County if necessary.
  6. Denial of permit. Denial of a Protected Tree Removal permit shall be provided stating specific criteria that were not met.
  7. Appeals. When a Protected Tree Removal permit has been denied by the County Administrator, the property owner or agent may appeal this decision to the Ponte Vedra Zoning and Adjustment Board (PVZAB). The PVZAB shall approve or deny the appeal and may impose reasonable conditions, as required, such as specific tree species and sizes for the required replacement trees.
  8. Variances. Variances from these regulations may be granted by the PVZAB in accordance with the standards and criteria in the Ponte Vedra Zoning District Regulations and the Land Development Code.
  9. After-the-Fact Compliance and Mitigation permit.
    a. Protected Trees removed or damaged in violation of this Section shall require an After-the-Fact Compliance and Mitigation permit, if the Tree would have qualified for a Protected Tree Removal Permit in accordance with this Section. Mitigation shall be required for issuance of such permit. In addition, as a condition of the After-the-Fact Compliance and Mitigation permit issuance, the applicant shall immediately complete all remedial work as necessary to stabilize the site and mitigate all damage to the site and adjacent properties.
    The following are permit application fees for an After-the-Fact Compliance and Mitigation permit:
    (1) Two hundred dollars ($200.00) for each Protected Tree eight (8) inches DBH.
    (2) Four hundred dollars ($400.00) for each Protected Tree greater than eight (8) inches DBH but less than twelve (12) inches DBH.
    (3) Eight hundred dollars ($800.00) for each Protected Tree twelve (12) inches DBH but less than twenty (20) inches DBH.
    (4) One thousand six hundred dollars ($1,600.00) for each Protected Tree twenty (20) inches or more DBH but less than Specimen Tree DBH.
    (5) Unauthorized removal of a Specimen Tree shall be prima facie evidence of an irreparable or irreversible violation and such violation shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $15,000. The removal, destruction, or killing of each Protected Specimen Tree shall be considered a separate violation.
    b. Denial of the After-the-Fact Compliance and Mitigation Permit shall be provided in writing and include reasons for such denial based on the criteria set forth in 4.c. When such permit is denied, the denial may be appealed to the PVZAB.
  10. Mitigation.
    a. No mitigation shall be required pursuant to a Protected Tree Removal Permit for removal of Protected Trees that are located within five (5) feet of a Building Footprint, within a proposed pool or driveway footprint, or along a proposed perimeter fence line.
    b. Mitigation for Protected Trees removed pursuant to a Protected Tree Removal Permit shall be replaced one (1) inch DBH for each one (1) inch DBH removed, with a minimum replacement tree size of two (2) inches DBH. If the site is not of sufficient size to allow for replacing all the Protected Tree inches lost, as determined by the County Administrator, then a thirty-five dollar ($35) per lost Tree inch deficiency charge for any unavoidable loss shall be paid into the St. Johns County Tree Bank Fund.
    c. Mitigation for removal of Protected Trees pursuant to an After-the-Fact Compliance and Mitigation Permit shall consist of replacement of two (2) inch DBH for each one (1) inch DBH removed, with a minimum replacement tree size of four (4) inches DBH. If the site is not of sufficient size to allow for replacing all the Protected Tree inches lost, as determined by the County Administrator, then a fifty dollar ($50) per lost Tree inch deficiency charge for any unavoidable loss shall be paid into the St. Johns County Tree Bank Fund.
    d. Mitigation for Protected Trees removed in violation of this Section, which would not be eligible to obtain a Protected Tree Removal permit as not meeting criteria set forth in 4.c, shall be assessed the fees listed in 9.a. and also require replacement trees at four (4) inches DBH planted for each one (1) inch DBH removed with a minimum replacement tree size of four (4) inches DBH. If the site is not of sufficient size to allow for replacing all the Protected Tree inches lost, as determined by the County Administrator, then a one hundred dollar ($100) per lost Tree inch deficiency charge for any unavoidable loss shall be paid into the St. Johns County Tree Bank Fund.
    e. Specimen Trees shall not be impacted unless approved by the County Administrator with a Protected Tree Removal Permit. The Owner/Applicant shall propose an alternative to total tree removal prepared by a Certified Arborist which conforms to the general intent and spirit of these regulations, and where the objectives of this Section have been substantially met. Alternative activities may include, but not be limited to, selective pruning and dripline impacts. If no feasible alternative to removal exists then mitigation for Specimen Tree removal shall be calculated at triple the lost Tree inches and applying a rate of one hundred dollars ($100) per lost calculated inches which shall be paid into the St. Johns County Tree Bank Fund. A Specimen Tree permitted to be removed shall also require replacement of a minimum of two (2) inches DBH for each one inch DBH of the tree(s) removed. Minimum replacement size shall be a minimum fifteen (15 feet) in height and six (6) inches DBH.
    f. Replacement trees. The property owner or agent shall be required to replace planted replacement Trees should the same die within two (2) years from date of planting. Planting of replacement trees shall be a minimum of two (2) inches DBH when planted and shall not be located within seven and one-half (7.5) feet of a property line. Replacement of trees that have been removed shall be completed prior to issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy.
  11. Exemptions from the requirement for a Protected Tree Removal Permit. The following activities shall be exempt from the requirements to apply for and receive a Protected Tree Removal permit, except that none of these exemptions shall be construed to apply to any coastal dune vegetation seaward of the coastal construction control line or to Specimen Trees, as such shall be fully subject to the provisions of this section, Article IV, Land Development Code, and any state permitting requirements applying to the coastal zone.
    All other development activity involving the removal of Protected Trees shall require issuance of a Protected Tree Removal Permit. The person(s) claiming any exemption shall have the burden of proving entitlement to the exemption.
    a. Emergency situation. The removal of trees destroyed or severely damaged during or immediately following an emergency (i.e., hurricane, tropical storm, tornado, flood or any other act of nature).
    b. Safety hazard. The removal of trees that pose imminent danger to the public health, safety and general welfare or to structures.
    c. The removal of Exempt trees.
    d. Utility operations. The pruning or removal of trees or understory vegetation by duly authorized communication, water, sewer, electrical or other utility companies or federal, state, or county agencies, or engineers or surveyors working under a contract with such utility companies or agencies, shall be exempt, provided the removal is limited to those areas necessary for the maintenance of existing lines or facilities or for the construction of new lines or facilities in furtherance of providing utility service to its customers, and provided further that the activity is conducted so as to avoid unnecessary removal. Notwithstanding this exemption, any such entity shall provide adequate prior notice to the County before commencing the removal work.
    e. Surveyors/engineers. The pruning of trees or removal or understory vegetation by a Florida-licensed land surveyor or engineer in order to provide physical access or view necessary to conduct a survey or site examination for the performance of professional duties related to land surveying, soil percolation and/or soil bore tests shall be exempt; provided that such alteration is limited to a swath of five (5) feet or less in width. However, the removal of Protected Trees is not authorized.
    f. County crews. The County shall have the right to plant, prune, maintain and remove trees, plants and shrubs within public rights-of-way, within any utility or drainage easements or within the illumination areas of street lights, and other public lands as may be necessary, and shall not be subject to mitigation assessment. The County shall not have the responsibility to maintain, prune or remove any damaged, dead or diseased trees on any private property within the Ponte Vedra Zoning District.
    g. Routine landscape maintenance such as trimming or pruning of vegetation, including Trees and Palms, which is not intended or reasonably likely to result in damage or the eventual death of any Protected Tree; and mowing of yards or lawns, or any other landscaping or gardening activity, which is commonly recognized as routine gardening or routine maintenance or replacement. Pruning of Protected Trees in the Ponte Vedra Zoning District shall follow the latest version of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A300, part 1 “pruning standards.” No topping cuts or lions-tailing cuts (over-lifting) will be permitted.
    h. The removal of cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) trees that are within two (2) feet of a property line, provided that trees which traverse a shared property line shall require the consent of both landowners.
  12. General prohibitions.
    a. Excessive or improper pruning. It shall be unlawful to engage in excessive or improper pruning techniques on Protected Trees that would adversely affect the condition of the tree or prevent reaching their mature canopy spread. This limitation shall not be construed to prohibit the trimming or pruning of trees that create a clear risk of danger to persons or improved property.
    b. Removal of County trees. It shall be unlawful to remove any Protected Tree that is within the County’s rights-of-way or upon any other County property without a Protected Tree Removal permit and in accordance with this Section.
    c. Tree spiking. It shall be unlawful to introduce any type of poison or reactive material to a Protected Tree for the purpose of causing the tree to die or become diseased.
    d. Attachments. It shall be unlawful to attach anything, including signs, permits, nails or spikes that may be injurious or cause damage, to a Protected Tree. Exceptions are protective wires, braces or other devices used to support a tree.
  13. Tree Protections. During all phases of permitted construction, trees shall be protected from activities such as driving or parking vehicles, adding fill soil, excavation, temporary soil storage, mechanical and chemical injury and mechanical compaction within the Tree Protected Area with a Tree Protection Barricade.
    a. To protect trunks, limbs and roots from injury, a fence or barrier shall be erected at the tree Protected Area. Groups of trees may be protected by a fence or barrier around the entire combined Protected Area.
    b. To protect the root system, no material may be stored, dumped, buried or burned within the Tree Protected Area.
  14. Enforcement.
    a. Enforcement of this Section to achieve compliance does not preclude the use of Code Enforcement activities as provided by Article 10.05.00 of the Land Development Code or any other enforcement activities permitted by law.
    b. The applicant, permittee, landowner, and person or business authorizing or performing actions in violation of this Section shall be jointly and severally liable and subject to fines and penalties, as provided for hereunder.
  15. Penalty for Mass Clearing
    If a lot, parcel, site or portion thereof, has been cleared such that the County Administrator is unable to determine with reasonable certainty the number and size of Protected Trees removed in violation of this Section, analysis of aerial photography or other such accepted scientific methodology shall be used to make a determination as to the loss of canopy and/or land cover for the purpose of assessing mitigation. In addition to other fees, fines and penalties that may be assessed under this Section or the Land Development Code, a fine of thirty-five dollars ($35.00) per square foot of canopy lost shall be assessed by the County Administrator, and shall be payable within seven (7) days of such assessment. No further work or development shall proceed until the County is in receipt of any such assessed fine.