Lot Clearing & Tree Removal

Q. What is the definition of a tree?
A. A tree is defined as any self-supporting woody plant of a species that measures no less than six (6) inches diameter at breast height (DBH).

Q. 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.

Q. Do I need a permit to remove a tree?
A. Lots with an existing single family or two family dwelling are exempt from the tree protection requirement of Chapter 11 of the Land Development Code. Vacant residential lots and all non-residential and multi-family parcels will require tree removal permits for any tree with a trunk diameter more than 6” at breast height (DBH), with the exception of nuisance trees. The City’s Land Development Code has a designated list of tree species which are considered nuisance species and are exempt from tree removal permitting. See below.

Section 11.3. – Exemptions. 

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

Q. Do I need a tree permit to remove underbrush from my residential lot?
A. No, but you will need a Lot Clearing Permit. A tree permit is not required to remove or transplant any tree with a trunk diameter less than 6” at breast height (DBH). Damage to the root system of the trees must be avoided. 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.

Q. What other permits will I need to clear my residential lot?
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: Listed here are some of the protected species that will require additional permitting through federal and/or state agencies: 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

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

Click here to see photos of Florida’s Endangered Species to aid in identifying plants and animals on your property.

Q. 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.

Q. What is a protected tree?

A. Essentially all trees 6” DBH and larger are protected. Specific nuisance trees are not protected regardless of size or location and are exempt from the requirement of a tree removal permit. (See Exemptions listed above.) Other Specimen trees are protected and require greater care to maintain in a living condition.

Section 11.19. – Specimen trees.


Common Name Botanical Name DBH (inches and larger)
Bald Cypress Taxodium distichum 12
Elm Ulmus spp. 18
Hickory Carya spp. 18
Laurel Oak species Quercus laurifolia 18
Live Oak Quercus virginiana 18
Loblolly Bay Gordonia lasianthus 12
Red Bay Persea borbonia 12
Red Maple Acer rubrum 18
River Birch Betula nigra 12
Shumard Oak Quercus shumardii 18
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


Q. 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 get a FWC relocation permit 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.

Q. 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.

Q. There is a dead tree in the right-of-way posing a hazard to pedestrians and drivers. Who should I contact?
A. Please contact the City at 386-775-5453 or by using the OC Cares app available for download on your mobile device.

Q. 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 2 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.


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