Leon County Commission Approves New Canopy Road Policy

Leon County Commission Approves New Canopy Road Policy

The Leon County Commissioners recently approved a new policy that establishes a procedure to designate new canopy roads.

After a discussion by Commissioner Dozier, the county approved the adoption of the proposed designation procedure for new canopy roads with a slight amendment.

Commissioner Dozier expressed concerns with a term outlined in the canopy roads policy that states 100% of landowner’s consent is required to apply for the canopy road designation. She suggested changing the percentage rate to 90%, arguing it would provide a little more flexibility to work with landowners.

The policy formalizes a process for determining eligibility based on a scenic and historical assessment, road attributes, and landowner and community support. Additionally, it allows for the Board to make a request to the Canopy Roads Citizen Committee (CRCC) to evaluate and determine if a specific road or road segment should receive a canopy designation.

The new policy provides the ability for citizens to seek designation through an application process of affected landowners with frontage on the road. The restrictions on development of property is from 100 feet from the center of the road, as the trees are protected under the Canopy Road Protection Zone (CRPZ).

The CRCC was established in 1993 as a joint standing committee by the County and City Commissions, to expand the number of designated canopy roads. These efforts are in support of a conservation element of the Tallahassee-Leon County Comprehensive Plan. The committee serves to make recommendations to the county and city on matters related to canopy roads.

Over time the CRCC has received requests from citizens to examine roads for canopy road status, however until now there were no formal procedures in place to direct these efforts. The CRCC contends an updated policy will “provide consistency and transparency for future additions to the canopy road system.”

Below is a timeline of canopy road designation and protections:

  • 1972:  Five canopy roads were designated by Ordinance No. 72-114.
  • 1975:  The CRPZ was established as 35’ from the centerline of the roads by Ordinance No. 75-3.
  • 1982: The CRPZ was expanded from 35’ to 50’ from the centerline of the roads by Ordinance No. 82-46.
  • 1992:  Understory protection measures were established and the CRPZ was expanded to the current protection of 100’ from the centerline of the roads by Ordinance No. 92-10.
  • 1993: The CCRC was established as a joint standing committee by the Board of County Commissioners and City Commission.
  • 2001:  Sunny Hill Road was added to the canopy roads system by Ordinance No. 01-19.
  • 2002:  Old Centerville Road was added to the canopy roads system by Ordinance No. 02-14.
  • 2007:  Pisgah Church Road was added to the canopy roads system by Ordinance No. 07-05.

Leon County Canopy Road Map

10 Responses to "Leon County Commission Approves New Canopy Road Policy"

  1. The urban portion of Old St. Augustine Road is a prime example of the toothless canopy protection policies of the City. OSAR Corridor is zoned for the highest density with the least tree protection. Ride by and look at the tree stumps of felled legacy Oaks. Sidewalks are on the construction schedule so the remaining trees will probably be removed. Add new canopy designations when we don’t even protect the existing ones? Take heed citizens.

  2. Apparently, the commissioners are afraid to confront the Bert Harris Act. I submitted the comments below to the commission and they ignored them.

    I have several issues with Item 35, Policy and Criteria for designating new canopy roads.

    Under background “environmental” should be added to the list of eligibility criteria.
    The proposed policy formalizes a process for determining eligibility based on a scenic and historical assessment, road attributes, and landowner and community support.

    The item describes the process used to designate our existing canopy roads as “While no formal process was described in code or policy, records indicate that the Board directed staff to examine the roads for designation, and that a combination of surveying affected landowners and/or holding public meetings was used to determine community support for the designation of these roads.”
    The key wording here is that affected landowners were surveyed and public meetings were held to designate our existing canopy roads.

    I would also note that the Boards environmental Strategic Priorities Initiatives states “Conserve and protect environmentally sensitive lands and our natural ecosystems.” And further add that Canopy Roads are designated as Conservation Areas under the Land Development Code and have the authority to designate conservation areas “Conservation areas (altered wetlands, altered floodplains, closed basins, high-quality successional forest, active karst features, canopy roads, and special development zones)” without the affected landowner’s approval.

    Finally, and most important is the proposal to require that 60 percent, as recommended by the CRCC or 100 percent, as recommended by legal staff, of support by affected landowners before a canopy road could be designated. Although Canopy Roads add value to the land and provide a variety of environmental and social benefits, you can’t get 100 percent support on anything!

    In other words, the 100 percent requirement essentially means that it is unlikely that we will be able to designate new canopy roads.

    I also do not understand the legal staff concerns about the 1995 Bert Harris Act and subsequent amendments and referred this issue to an environmental and land-use lawyer with over 40 years of experience in this field and offered the following:

    “In order to prevail on a Bert Harris claim, the landowner has to show that the regulation is an “inordinate burden.” How is a canopy road designation a burden? It could be argued that it actually makes their property more valuable, not less. No one is taking anything from them.

    In Florida, the case law shows that, in order to prevail under Bert Harris, a business would need to show that it had an ongoing long-term business in that specific location that was profitable, fully permitted and vested (development permits, by their nature, are never vested) and that the new regulation kept the company from making any other profitable uses of their land. This means that the litigant would have to show that, but for the new regulation, he would have been able to get all necessary federal, state, and local permits (speculative) and that he would have been able to successfully made a sustained profit (also speculative.) Courts do not award money judgments based on speculation. The award money judgments are based upon a demonstrated track record and documentation of prior sustainable earnings.

    As for residential property, (non-commercial property), what exactly is the loss to them? They can still build a home or homes (depending on the underlying zoning). The only thing they can’t do is remove certain trees. However, these protected trees would be in the area that would be required as set-back anyway, I believe. I don’t see any loss, let alone an “inordinate burden.”

    Also, keep in mind that our Florida Constitution, Section 7 states:

    It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.

    In other words, natural resources like trees and scenic beauty are constitutionally protected rights.

    The Bert Harris Act is sort of a bogeyman that developers like to throw around as a threat to intimidate government officials. The truth is that it is rarely sued under, there are very few reported cases, the government wins the VAST majority of the cases filed (virtually all of them except in a very small number of extreme situations), and the reciprocal attorney fee provision scares off most lawsuits.”

    Regards and thanks for listening,

    John Outland

  3. Tallahassee’s Canopy Roads are a wonderful aspect of our life, our unique environmental laws have helped preserve our quality of life.
    That being said, let’s not get carried away with telling other people how they can use their land. There is a thing called Private Property rights.

  4. My biggest problems with canopy roads is leaving trees right near an intersection that block your view of incoming traffic and the bicycle fanatics that like to drive down such a dangerous road at the craziest times. Do you have to do it in prime traffic? It’s not like this area hasn’t spent millions on bike lanes and trails. I see it as a death wish, nothing more.

  5. “90% of landowners” seems a bit naive. Imagine a stretch of road where everybody on 1 side of the road wants to apply and the other side of the road is owned by a single entity. By the county’s own rule, the entity owning 1 side of the road can prevent the application. On one hand, property owners with the most land are most impacted by the designation (or lack of one), but the lack of a Canopy Roads designation can open the door to residential or commercial development that is inconsistent with existing usage.

  6. Sometimes it’s just about votes… also, people who own large swaths of land often have expendable funds to donate to political campaigns. 😉

  7. Someone help me out here. Usually when one of our local Commissions takes up any subject matter there is a related angle for graft and corruption. I have thought this Canopy Roads issue through very carefully and am somehow missing the self serving angle here which is statistically about as close to impossible as you can get.
    Someone toss me a bone here. What’s the Commissioner’s incentive “angle” here for wasting their time with Canopy Roads?

  8. I’m glad that the Canopy Roads are getting a little attention. The Canopy Roads are a major plus to our city and a unique feature for a Florida city. I do feel that in the usual fashion in Tallahassee, developers and contractors do not abide by the no development within 100 ft. of the center of the road. I travel Centerville Road every day and I can point to several places that have not abided by this rule. So what happens if people develop the road – a slap on the wrist, a wink and a nod with money under the table?

  9. OK, since most Property Owners on Canopy style Roads owns several Acres or MORE, usually a LOT more and some even over 100 Acres then, you should ALSO make it where the Property can not EVER be subdivided to less than 1 Acre Lots, 5 Acre Lots if the Plot of Land being sold is 20 Acres or Larger.
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    ALSO, since you are wanting just 90% of the Property Owners to be needed to apply for the canopy road designation, can it also be said that 90% of the Property Owners can also Cancel the canopy road designation if they choose to do so?

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