Special City Council - July 20, 2021


City Council 

Special Meeting

July 20, 2021

 

The City of Titusville City Council met in special session on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, at Titusville City Hall, second floor, Council Chamber, 555 South Washington Avenue, Titusville, Florida 32796. Mayor Diesel called the City Council meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. Those present in the Council Chamber included Mayor Daniel Diesel, Vice-Mayor Jo Lynn Nelson, City Council Members Robert Jordan, Joe Robinson, and Sarah Stoeckel, City Manager Scott Larese, City Attorney Richard Broome, and Senior Administrative Assistant Emily Campbell, who completed the minutes of the meeting. 

 

Mayor Diesel requested a moment of silence, followed by leading those present in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Assistant City Clerk Donhoff read the procedure for public comment and participation. 

 

 

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The purpose of the meeting was, as followed: 

 

Tree Protection Workshop - City Manager Larese reviewed the purpose of the special City Council meeting, as provided on the meeting agenda.

 

The goal of the workshop was to inform Council of the current status of the tree protection

ordinance, and to receive questions from Council to ensure they are provided with adequate

information to feel comfortable reviewing the ordinance during the public hearing process.

Requests for additional information expressed at the workshop would assist staff time in preparing

for the ordinance public hearing.

 

Community Development Director Peggy Busacca stated that staff started the tree protection ordinance in May of 2019 with Council advisability and have had Titusville Environmental Commission reviews, Planning and Zoning Commission reviews and workshops. Staff was advised to focus on mandatory preservation, increased penalties for “untouchable” trees, concerns about clear cutting, and quick wins. 

 

City Attorney Broome read the Private Property Rights 70-001 also known as Bert Harris, which provides relief to private property owners who are unfairly affected by government action. City Attorney Broome then explained that the current City Code does provide property owners the ability to seek variances from the Board of Adjustments and Appeals and administrative waivers if they can not comply. There was also Chapter 34 Article 10 Beneficial Use Process, which was a process available to property owners who believe that all beneficial use of their property has been denied by application of our Land Development Regulations. In that case, City Council can provide relief from regulations instead of the property owners going to court. 

 

Community Development Director Peggy Busacca provided a powerpoint presentation and highlighted as followed: 


  • Workshop Goals
  • Tree Protection Timeline
  • Draft Ordinances
  • 2019 Council Advisability
  • State Regulatory Structure
  • Major Issues
  • Current Code
  • Protected Trees by Diameter at Breast Height
  • Natural Area Preservation
  • Minimum Canopy Requirements
  • Tree Removal Criteria
  • Approval Process
  • Heritage Tree Removal Process
  • Mitigation
  • Public Landscaping Trust Fund Contributions

 

Member Robinson asked staff to include the intent for the different sections as well as the different opinions from the Planning and Zoning Commission, Titusville Environmental Commission, and staff. 

 

Member Jordan expressed that Government should not be in the business to prevent smart development, but instead should work with developers to preserve as many trees as possible without making it mandatory. Member Jordan expressed he would like to stick to what council originally asked for, which was mandatory preservation/increase penalties for “untouchable” trees, and determine the definition of “untouchable” trees. Member Jordan clarified that he can not support anything that gets in the way of smart development. 

 

Council asked for clarification on the definition of clear cutting. Community Development Director Peggy Busacca explained that it was an agricultural term and that in the current code, clear cutting was prevented. 

 

Member Jordan suggested giving the administrators more leeway to make decisions, instead of making the developer go through the Board of Adjustments and Appeals, to make it cheaper and easier on the developer.

 

Mayor Diesel expressed that staff and council need to all interpret and understand the ordinance to prevent confusion now and in the future.

 

Member Stoeckel reviewed with Development Director Peggy Busacca the main issues that staff needs council to give their intent on, including untouchable trees, heritage trees, canopy percentage, mitigation requirements, incentives, and waivers and appeals. 

 

Vice-Mayor Nelson stated that all of the ordinances in the packer were well written.

 

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Public Comment – 

 

Kay St. Onge spoke for the Titusville Tree Team. She read from a prepared statement that reviewed her concern with clear cutting, removal of heritage trees, and who was hearing the appeals. Ms. St. Onge asked for clarification on what type and size of tree was considered a heritage tree. She asked council to preserve at least 25% of trees for the sake of the Indian River Lagoon. 

 

Nathan Slusher asked if it was necessary to create new laws because what if we required trees to be added to a development and the trees were to die in the future. Mr. Slusher asked if there was some kind of follow up Council could do after five to ten years. Mr. Slusher suggested council could just ask the people to protect the trees, instead of making it a legal matter.

 

Dwight Severs, the chairmen of the Planning and Zoning Commission, expressed to council that he was available for any questions or issues. Mr. Severs explained that the Planning and Zoning Commission listened to the developers as well as the people who want to protect the trees and came up with a compromise. Mr. Severs stated that staff’s version of the ordinance needed more clarity and that the Planning and Zoning Commission tried to accomplish this through their recommendations. 

 

William Klein stated that eliminating tree canopies increased the temperature 10-15 degrees. Mr. Klein expressed that the critically poor condition of the Indian River Lagoon was caused by developments that cut down trees and filled in wetlands. Mr. Klein stated the algae bloom and lack of seagrass caused the starvation of over 300 manatees in Brevard. He asked council to protect existing trees, and require 40-60% of tree canopy in Titusville. 

 

Kim Rezanka, from the Law Firm Lacey Lyons Rezanka, asked for the public purpose of the ordinance. She stated that City Council should have the final say of the ordinance. She expressed that going from a four-page ordinance to a twelve-page ordinance was over regulation. She asked that staff add back section D related to the sketch plat because of the engineering cost required for the sketch plat. Ms. Rezanka stated that a vocal minority asked for these changes and it is unfair to many property owners. 

 

Marlys Breckle reminded council that trees reduced stormwater runoff and recharged the aquifer. She explained that tree canopy over parking lots or streets helped to reduce stormwater, and that a mature oak tree can transpire 400 gallons of water in one day. Ms. Breckles stated that trees are an investment to Titusville, not an expense. 

 

Troy Post, the Executive Director for the North Brevard Economic Development Zone, expressed the concern he was hearing about this ordinance and whether it was going to apply to commercial and industrial properties. He expressed that developers already had so many laws and regulations they had to follow that adding more can make lots undesirable and turn people away from building in Titusville. Mr. Post stated that he supported the staff’s version of the ordinance. 

 

Matt Williams, a local Brevard County Developer, expressed that the ordinance as proposed would prevent a lot of businesses from moving forward in Titusville because of the financial burden. 

 

Mary Sphar stated that she believed the ordinance needed to provide a balance between economic and environmental concerns to prevent mitigation. She stated that staff tried to provide a balanced ordinance that was simple, but in her opinion, it was too simple. Ms. Sphar suggest increasing the canopy requirements and asked staff to update their ordinance. 

 

Richard Kern, from Honeycutt Engineer, expressed his support for the Planning and Zoning Commission’s ordinance, but supported the staff’s version of the canopy preservation requirements. Mr. Kern suggested that Council should hear the appeals for the heritage trees instead of the Board of Adjustment and Appeals.  

 

Patricia Weeks, the 2021 President for the Space Coast Association of Realtors, stated that she believed private property rights need to be protected, whether it be commercial or industrial land. She expressed that oak tree roots can be very bad for foundations, roads, and sewer systems. 

 

Bruce Moia represented the Space Coast Homebuilders and Contractors Association. He hoped that Council would consider adding the sketch plat back to the ordinance because of the investment people have already made by that point. Mr. Moia explained that he would support staff’s version of the ordinance or go back to the previous ordinance. 

 

 

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Council individually discussed their questions and concerns with staff. 

 

City Manager Larese stated that staff needed guidance from Council for any adjustments they need to make and if they are substantial, the first reading would not be ready by the Regular City Council meeting on July 27, 2021. 

 

Mayor Diesel stated that the ordinance needed to have an environmental and economic compromise so that Titusville can grow while keeping trees in mind. 

 

Member Jordan stated that he did not want to hurt the economic development with the tree ordinance. He stated that staff was not ready to have the first reading yet and his opinion would be to leave things how they were, and make sure the sketch plat was in the ordinance. Member Jordan stated that he can not support the requirements on industrial or commercial developments. Member Jordan asked Woody Rice for his opinions on the ordinance.

 

Woody Rice stated that he was one of the newest members of the Planning and Zoning Commission. He stated that their July 7, 2021 meeting was supposed to be used to clean up the ordinance, but instead they ended up changing things, which disappointed him. He stated that staff needed to define the problem, which he believed was clear cutting Brookshire, a planned single-family homes neighborhood, and residential sites. Mr. Rice stated that maybe council and staff should make the intent to preserve canopy internal to a subdivision.

                          

Member Stoeckel stated that she was in support of staff’s version, but was interested in the commercial and industrial requirements and would need to see a map to decide if it was needed or should be eliminated. Member Stoeckel stated that she would like to include Section 12D related to the sketch plat and would like Council to hear waivers and appeals. 

 

Mayor Diesel stated that Community Development Director Peggy Busacca did a great job and asked what her time frame would be to finish this ordinance. Ms. Busacca stated that staff should be able to complete the ordinance in two weeks and present it at the regular City Council Meeting on August 10, 2021. She suggested tabling the first reading to August 10, 2021 and tabling the public hearing to August 24, 2021. 

 

Vice-Mayor Nelson stated that the staff’s version of the ordinance was the easiest to follow. She agrees with adding the sketch plat and believes the wetlands only getting 50% credit was low. Vice-Mayor Nelson also wanted Council to approve waivers and appeals and the administrators could give out extra waivers. Vice-Mayor Nelson stated she would like to preserve the heritage trees when able, with incentives. 

 

Member Robinson stated that council needed to decide what Titusville’s goals were and come to a compromise between economic and environmental issues going into the future. Member Robinson stated that staff’s version was the easiest to follow and council needed to decide what the intent was and to stick to it. 

 

Mayor Diesel thanked the people who spoke and stated that it was important for the economic and environmental side to come together and compromise in order for Titusville to be the best it could be in the future.

 

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With no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 7:31 p.m.