It's not all about charm, shade and history. Mount Dora's street trees have significant economic benefits.
Research shows street trees enhance a community's economic stability by attracting businesses and tourists alike, according to the Southern Group of State Foresters. The group states, "Customers are willing to pay as much as 10% more for certain goods and services if businesses are located on tree-lined streets" and that shade encourages patrons to linger and shop longer. Another group, American Forests, reports customers will pay up to 12% more in tree-lined shopping districts.
In Mount Dora's downtown core, many commercial rents are disproportionately higher than other tourist areas in Florida. Additionally, downtown Mount Dora has fewer busy months than other areas of high tourism. Due to its inland location, downtown Mount Dora businesses depend on a single 6 month busy season, while other Florida tourist areas have 2 seasons: a winter snowbird season and a summer beach season. Therefore, any sustained reduction in revenue is critical to the economic health of downtown.
Shade trees can lower air-conditioning costs of a business by decreasing energy use. "If planted near a building, trees can reduce energy bills by up to 40 percent", according to American Forests, the nation's oldest, non-profit conservation organization. Likewise, reducing shade increases energy costs. Mount Dora businesses in the Sunset Building on Third Avenue and Baker where oak trees were removed and replaced with palm trees last year, have experienced sharp increases in their electric bills. Earth Diva Designs and Two B's Studio energy costs have risen an estimated 30 percent, according to Sonya Watson, owner of Earth Diva.
A significant rise in energy costs combined with disproportionate rents and the potential reduction of what customers are willing to spend in the area would negatively impact the existing downtown businesses community, as well as deter new businesses.