Lot Clearing & Tree Removal

Tree Removal Documents
General Tree Info
Tree Removal 101

Lot Clearing & Tree Removal

General Questions

  1. I received a notice of violation for removing trees without a permit. What do I need to do now?
  2. In accordance with Section 11.4 of the Land Development Code, a Tree Removal Permit must be submitted and a fee twice that of the regular permit fee as outlined in Section 11.18 Violations and Penalties is also due with the permit application. Be aware that protected trees which have been removed without a tree removal permit require replacement at a rate twice the caliper inches of replacement stock that would have been required if no violation had taken place or twice the payment amount to the tree bank based on the tree bank formula found in Section 11.15 LDC.
  3. When is it acceptable to remove a tree?
  4. Trees are declared to be beneficial public resources. Per Section 11.6 Removal of Trees, a tree may be removed under certain circumstances such as if it is diseased, dead, in danger of falling, too close to existing or proposed structures or improvements to the area, interferes with existing utility service, creates an unsafe visual obstruction or conflicts with other ordinances or regulations. Be aware that a Tree Removal Permit may be needed before the tree(s) can be removed.
  5. Do I need a Tree Removal Permit?
ALL Commercial Properties

Residential Rental Properties

Undeveloped Residential Parcels

Undeveloped Multi-Family Parcels

Existing “Owner Occupied” Single Family Dwellings


  1. What is the definition of a tree?
    A. A tree is defined as any self-supporting woody plant that measures no less than six (6) inches in diameter at breast height (DBH).
  2. What is DBH and how do I measure the DBH of a tree?
    A. DBH is the abbreviation for diameter at breast height and is defined as the trunk diameter of a tree measured four and one-half (4½ or 4.5) feet above the average ground level at the base of the tree. If the tree forks above 4.5 feet above ground level, it is measured below the swell resulting from the double stem. Stems that fork below 4.5 feet above ground level are considered separate trees. To determine DBH, use a regular measuring tape and wrap it around the tree at a point 4.5 feet above the ground to get the circumference. Then, divide that number by 3.14 to get the diameter.
  3. What is a protected tree?
    A. Most trees 6” DBH and larger are protected as described in the Orange City Land Development Code (LDC). Protected specimen trees are determined based on the species and size of the subject tree. (See LDC Section 11.19 Specimen Trees listed below)

Section 11.9. – Specimen trees.

Common Name Botanical Name DBH (inches and larger)
Bald Cypress Taxodium distichum 12
Elm Ulmus spp. 18
Hickory Carya spp. 18
Longleaf Pine Pinus palustris 18
Loblolly Bay Gordonia lasianthus 12
Red Bay Persea borbonia 12
Maple Acer ssp. 18
River Birch Betula nigra 12
Slash Pine Pinus elliottii 18
Southern Magnolia Magnolia grandiflora 12
Southern Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana 12
Swamp Bay Persea palustris 12
Sweet Bay Magnolia Magnolia virginiana 12
Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua 18
Sycamore Platanus occidentalis 18
Turkey Oak Quercus laevis 12
All other Oak Species, except Water Oak Quercus spp. 18
  1. If a specimen tree is removed, what is the required amount of replacement tree(s)?
  2. Any specimen trees removed must be replaced at a rate of 50% of the DBH inches of the specimen tree removed.
  3. What is a historic tree?
  4. Certain tree species are considered historic once they reach a particular size (see LDC Section 11.20 Historic Trees listed below).

Section 11.20. – Historic trees.

Common Name Botanical Name DBH (inches and larger)
Live Oak Quercus virginianan 36
Bald Cypress Taxodium distichum 36
Hickory Carya spp. 36


  1. Can I remove a historic tree?
  2. Removal of historic trees must be approved by City Council. If the subject tree(s) are deteriorated, dying or considered to be a hazard the applicant may provide proof of such by submitting a report from a licensed forester or a certified arborist.
  3. If a historic tree is authorized for removal by City Council, what is the required amount of replacement tree(s)?
  4. The rate of replacement is determined by City Council.
  5. Which trees are not protected?
  6. Specific nuisance trees are not protected regardless of size or location and are exempt from the requirement of a tree removal permit (see LDC Section 11.3 Exemptions listed below).

Section 11.3. – Exemptions.                  

Common Name Botanical Name
Australian Pine Casuarina equisitifolia
Brazilian Pepper Schinus terebinthefolius
Camphor Cinnamomum camphora
Chinaberry Melia azedarach
Chinese Tallow Sapium sebiferum
Citrus Citrus species
Ear Tree Enterolobium cyclocarpum
Eucalyptus Eucalyptus species
Punk Tree Melaleuca leucadendion
Sand Pine Pinus clausa
Silk Oak Grevillea robusta
Woman’s Tongue Albizia lebbeck


  1. If a non-specimen, non-historic, non-nuisance tree is removed, what is the required amount of replacement tree(s)?
  2. Trees which are not deemed specimen, historic or nuisance trees must be replaced at a rate of 15% of the DBH inches of the specimen tree removed.
  3. There is a dead tree in the right-of-way posing a hazard to pedestrians and/or drivers. Who should I contact?
    A. Please contact the City at 386-775-5453 or by using the Orange City Connect App, available for download on your mobile device.

Residential Questions

  1. Who is responsible for my neighbor’s tree that has fallen into or overhangs my yard?
    A. This is a civil matter between you and your neighbor.
  2. Do I need a tree permit to remove underbrush on my undeveloped residential lot?
    A. No, but you will need a Lot Clearing Permit.
  3. How do I obtain a Lot Clearing Permit?
    A. A Lot Clearing Permit may be obtained from the Development Services Department. Please note that even if a lot clearing permit is issued, other permit requirements may still apply, such as protection of threatened or endangered species and wetland protection. Please contact Development Services at 386-775-5415 if you are unsure whether a permit is required. Furthermore, underbrushing is not permitted within wetlands or wetland buffers. Contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection office at 407-897-2927 for questions regarding permitting work in and around wetlands.
  4. I want to regrade my residential lot. Do I need a permit?
    A. It depends. If you are changing the elevation of your lot, by either adding or removing soil resulting in a 4% change in elevation, you will need to apply for a Lot Grading Permit. You will need to include with the permit application a survey, not more than two years old, showing existing and proposed spot elevations for the following: lot corners, lot center, grade changes of 4% or more, swales, ditches, other existing stormwater features, flow-ways, etc.

When regrading around exiting trees, it is your responsibility to ensure that all trees and replacement stock have their natural soil level maintained. Trees wells and/or planter-island shall be provided, if necessary, to maintain the natural existing soil level. All efforts shall be made to maintain natural drainage to such trees.

Commercial Questions

  1. Can I clear a vacant commercial lot?
    A. Lot clearing is not permitted on an undeveloped commercial property without an approved development plan, but may be approved once a development order, and corresponding Tree Removal and Stormwater permits have been issued.
  2. Can I replace trees planted on my existing commercial development?
  3. Most existing commercial developments have an approved landscape plan identifying the location, species, and size of required trees and landscape materials as part of the development approval process. Modifications to the existing development order may be approved by the Development Services Director (DSD) when such modifications are consistent with the requirements of the code and do not have a substantial impact on the overall intent of the development order. Changes of landscape materials that are deemed similar or equivalent to those approved may be authorized by the DSD. You will need to submit a revised landscape plan for review and pay the required revision fee.
  4. I planted trees on my commercial development many years ago. They have grown so large that my property is not visible from the road. Can I prune my trees back for increased visibility?
  5. Trees may be pruned in accordance with Section 11.13 LDC Tree Maintenance and Survival and Section 11.14.6 LDC Tree Topping. In summary, trees shall be maintained in good condition so as to present a healthy and safe appearance. It is unlawful to practice Tree Topping. Tree Topping is the severe cutting back of limbs to stubs so as to remove the normal canopy and disfigure the tree.
  6. My tree has been uprooted during a major storm. I need to take it down right away before it falls. Do I need a permit?
  7. During periods of emergency such as hurricanes, windstorms, flood, freeze or other disasters, the requirement of a tree removal permit may be waived by the city manager for a set amount of time.

Misc. Permitting Concerns

  1. A gopher tortoise has made a burrow on my property. What do I do?
    A. Gopher tortoises are protected by state law. If you have gopher tortoises on your property, you need to first obtain a relocation permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission before disturbing the burrows. A disturbance includes any type of work within 25 feet of a gopher tortoise burrow. Most typical activities associated with residential lawn and landscape maintenance do not require a permit, provided they do not collapse gopher tortoise burrows or harm gopher tortoises. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines available on their website. If you have questions, please FWC at (850) 921-5990.
  2. What other permits may be required?
    Please note that even if a tree removal permit is not required, other permit requirements may apply, such as protection of threatened or endangered species and wetland protection.
    Wetlands Permit: Development in wetlands ½ acre or smaller are exempt from wetland permitting. To work in and around wetlands greater than ½ acre, you may be required to obtain a permit from the City, St Johns River Water Management District, or Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Contact the Development Services Department at 386-775-5415 if you are unsure whether a permit is required.
    Protected Species Permitting: Protected species that will require additional permitting through federal and/or state agencies include, but are not limited to: Gopher Tortoise, Florida Scrub Jays, Osprey, and Bald Eagle. These species are protected by federal and/or state law. Contact Permit Staff for protected wildlife permitting or technical assistance at:

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Species Conservation Planning Section
Protected Species Permit Coordinator
620 South Meridian Street, Mail Station 2A
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1600
(850) 921-5990
[email protected]

Regional Species Conservation Planning Biologists are available to provide technical assistance on assorted listed non-marine wildlife issues. You should contact your Regional Biologist to discuss wildlife scientific collecting, relocation, ecology, development, and nuisance issues. Some situations may require both biological and permitting technical assistance. We ask that you contact the Tallahassee permitting staff regarding issuance of required permits early on while seeking technical assistance through the Regional office.

Northeast Region
Species Conservation Planning Section
FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
1239 S.W. 10th Street
Ocala, FL 34474-2797
(352) 732-1225/Fax (352) 369-2455


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