The Gainesville City Commission voted to change the code around its Tree Mitigation Fund on Thursday, opening up the $7.8 million pot for expanded uses besides planting trees.
The Tree Mitigation Fund receives revenue from when trees are taken down within city limits, with developers and residents required to contribute. At the end of last year, the fund had $7.8 million in reserve, and staff said it can’t spend all the revenue on the narrow uses allowed in the city code.
Right now, the fund can be used to plant trees on the city right of way or on city property. The money can also purchase conservation land. But the wording prevents the maintenance of trees, like pruning or supports, with the funds.
Gainesville staff said the city could keep up with revenues if it purchased more conservation lands but said they’re hesitant to buy the land until they can maintain it.
The new section of the code allows the purchase of trees and the equipment to plant them, the structural pruning of trees, the preservation of tree canopy through the city’s purchase of conservation lands and the purchase of professional services directly related to the development of the city’s urban forest.
Since its peak in 2002, the city of Gainesville’s tree canopy has shrunk by around nine square miles to approximately 31 total square miles, according to city staff.