Residents may soon have more shade when walking down the streets of Alachua County.
On Tuesday, Alachua County Growth Management proposed an amendment allowing larger canopy trees to be planted closer together.
Hearty canopy trees, such as live oaks, provide shade for pedestrians on the sidewalk and cars on the road. They are more resistant to wind and live longer than the smaller trees currently lining walkways throughout the county.
Current code requires canopy trees to be planted 12 feet apart. Smaller trees can be planted eight feet apart.
The change would allow all trees to be planted eight feet apart.
If the amendment passes, developers like Buford Davis and Associates could benefit. The company tries to plant trees that are readily available, native to the area and aesthetically pleasing, like live oaks and magnolias, but are limited due to the size and space restrictions.
“Right now, what we’re having to do is put trees in that don’t look as nice,” said Caeli Polar, a landscape architect with the company.
The canopy trees are more than just good to look at — they require less maintenance.
Some of the smaller trees will no longer be planted. Laurel oaks, sweetgums and hickories are less sturdy and have a shorter life expectancy than trees such as live oaks, said Steven Kabat, county forester and landscaping inspector.
However, large canopy trees have some drawbacks. During growth, they can push up sidewalks with their large root bases and get in the way of power lines. Adam Bolton, president of development company Robinshore Incorporated, said the impact of new trees can be seen in as few as five years.
Bolton said despite this, trees add value to neighborhoods and to the lives of the people who live there. Without them, he said, streets look barren and aren’t as comfortable – especially during Florida summers.
“Trees can make the difference between a beautiful subdivision and an ugly one,” he said.