During passionate community issues sometimes facts get blurred among the misinformation and misstatements. Here's a fact check on some common statements:
STATEMENT: The roots of the trees will cause damage to the infrastructure, sidewalks and building foundations.
FACT: False. Urban landscape architects utilize root barriers and engineered soils in downtown areas so roots grow down instead of out. These common planting practices have been used successfully for years to prevent roots from interfering with underground infrastructure, foundations and sidewalks. Future root damage in downtown Mount Dora has been mitigated because all newly planted trees in downtown Mount Dora will be installed with root barriers, according to acting city manager, Mark Reggentin, at the May 5th city council meeting
STATEMENT: All the downtown street trees are being replaced.
FACT: False. Many of the oak street trees are being substituted with palms and smaller ornamentals. 'Street trees' refers to trees that line the streets. 16 street trees were removed during this phase of construction, 15 Laurel oaks and 1 Sycamore. According to information provided by the city of Mount Dora on April 14, there is a net loss of 11 canopy street trees that are not being replaced with canopy trees. This loss pertains to the canopy on 4th Avenue between Alexander and Baker, plus Donnelly between 3rd and 4th Avenues. It does not include parking lot trees or any canopy street tree loss from the two previous phases of construction.
STATEMENT: Live oaks can reach 60' in height with a 60'+ spread and require 100-333 square feet of planting area. (Attribution: City of Mount Dora's Planning and Zoning Department responsible for the current landscape plan that the city council approved.)
FACT: True of a Southern Live Oak. However, Southern Live Oaks are not the variety of Live Oaks used by landscape architects experienced in designing shady, narrow streetscapes. These professionals use much smaller Live Oak cultivars specifically designed for tight spaces such as lining sidewalks, streets and entry ways. Examples of Live Oak cultivars used in a downtown streetscapes include: Sanford, Eustis' award-winning streetscape, Winter Park's award-winning streetscape, Tampa, and Sarasota. It is important to refer to the right type of Live Oak for the right place.
STATEMENT: Mount Dora doesn't have the money to purchase the shade trees.
FACT: False. The viable shade tree replacements can be less expensive than the 4 date palms and other ornamentals budgeted in the current plan.
STATEMENT: We cannot allow trees to grow against buildings, causing maintenance and liability issues. 15' is actually too little for a species with a 60' spread..." (Attribution: City of Mount Dora's Planning and Zoning Department responsible for the landscape plan that the city council approved)
FACT: True. However, referring to the 60' spread is referencing the Southern Live Oak. This is not the type of Live Oak used by landscape architects designing shady, narrow streetscapes. They use much smaller Live Oak cultivars specifically designed for tight spaces. Examples of these types of Live Oak cultivars used in a downtown streetscapes near buildings include: Sanford, Eustis' award-winning streetscape, Winter Park's award-winning streetscape, Tampa, and Sarasota. It is important to refer to the right type of Live Oak for the right place. No one has suggested the Southern Live Oak is right for downtown streets. Additionally, street tree canopies do not grow and spread as field and park trees do. (see additional facts on canopy growth below)
STATEMENT: Shade trees will block business signage downtown. (Attribution: City of Mount Dora's Planning and Zoning Department responsible for the landscape plan)
FACT: False. Street trees do not have the same growth pattern as field or park trees of the same species. Street canopies naturally grow toward the sunlight and away from the buildings. Store signage remains easily visible. Examples of this include Park Avenue in Winter Park which is a heavily forested street with completely unobstructed store signage along their shaded 7'-9' sidewalks lined with live oak cultivars and other shade trees.
STATEMENT: Mount Dora must replant as large of oaks or shade trees as possible to quickly replace the canopy.
FACT: False. Once mature trees have been cut down, immediate replacement of canopy is not possible. Larger trees incur more stress when replanting, require more initial care and the rate of survivability drops. Replanting smaller caliper trees (3-5" caliper) do better when planted, require less care, and respond well to root barriers. A 3" caliper tree can catch up to a 6" caliper within three years. This because an unstressed tree has a faster growth rate. (Note: caliper measurements on young trees are taken at 6" above the soil. Once a tree's caliper is over 4" the tree is measured at a height of 12 inches).
STATEMENT: Winter Park is able to have oaks and shade trees because their downtown core has 25' sidewalks (Attribution: Mount Dora city officials)
FACT: False. Measurements taken May 11 on Park Avenue, Winter Park's main street in its downtown core, show typical sidewalks are between 7'-9' feet from the face of the buildings to the planting strip. The statement of 25' sidewalks is off by 14'+. Planting strips are not included in sidewalk measurements, however even when adding Park Avenue's typical planting strips measuring 5-6', it would still make the statement of 25' erroneous by 11'+ feet.
STATEMENT: The removal of downtown Mount Dora's shade canopy can create an Urban Heat Island, the environmental condition where an urban area is warmer than the surrounding rural area.
FACT: True. However, the city can add heat island mitigation programs to their annual budget.
STATEMENT: Only a handful of residents care about the trees. (Attribution: City Council member during May 5 city council meeting
FACT: False. Council members have reported receiving dozens of letters from residents supporting downtown's shade. Hundreds of residents have commented on local social media pages in support of shade, while others have posted similar comments on local online media. A petition of 501 signatures in support of the trees was reportedly presented to the city's own Historic Preservation Board in April.
STATEMENT: There were numerous public meetings on this issue where residents could have voiced their opinion.
FACT: True. Over a period of years, Mount Dora held regular public city council meetings, workshops and construction meetings about downtown's streetscape project. Those meetings were not advertised to residents specifically about the consequences to downtown's shade canopy. For almost a year hundreds of residents participated in ENVISION Mount Dora, where residents helped define and plan the city's future. During that extensive process which was completed in 2011, residents did not request removal or reduction of the tree canopy nor express a desire for an increase in palm trees.
STATEMENT: There are other viable canopy street tree options besides Live Oak cultivars that would be the right tree in the right place in downtown.
FACT: True. There are other viable canopy street trees and medium tree options that can be mixed into the downtown street canopy.
Sources: EPA, City of Winter Park, City of Eustis, City of Sanford, University of Florida Department of Urban Forestry.