Environmental Permitting

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Environmental Permitting

The Environmental Permitting team ensures protection of the county’s natural resources by applying principles of avoidance and minimization during permit reviews, requiring mitigation for unavoidable impacts, conducting environmental compliance and monitoring, and encouraging environmental stewardship. We provide guidance and offer options and solutions within the county’s environmental regulatory framework while achieving desired development outcomes that protect environmental features and enhance the quality of life in our community.

The Environmental Permitting team is responsible for reviewing and managing:

• Tree permits.
• Water & Navigation Control Authority (WNCA) permits.
• Earthmoving permits.
• Coastal setback reviews and approvals (GBSL). 
• Mangrove trimming and Alteration permits.
• Myakka River Protection Zone reviews and approvals. 
• Development reviews (e.g., land use petitions, land development, building permits). 
• Monitoring reports for preservation areas, wetland mitigation areas, and littoral zones.
• Environmental Code Compliance 

Tree Protection and Removal Permits

Sarasota County’s Trees Code (Chapter 54, Article XVIII) recognizes the county’s exceptional tree resources and the associated benefits of trees; and provides standards on public and private lands, grand trees, and canopy roads to ensure that our trees can be enjoyed by future generations. Our department serves the unincorporated areas of Sarasota County and the city of Venice for tree permitting. If you live in the city of Sarasota, city of North Port or the Town of Longboat Key contact those jurisdictions for their local tree permitting requirements:

• City of Sarasota Neighborhood Development Services
• City of North Port Development Services
• Town of Longboat Key Building Division


Tree Permit Requirements

A tree permit is required:

• for tree removal or relocation. 
• pruning or causing irreparable injury to trees in a Canopy Road Protection Zone or Right-of-Way.
• planting trees or other vegetation within the Right-of-Way.

In reviewing tree permits, avoidance and then minimization of impacts are employed, and may require alternative site designs, stem walls, root pruning, bio-barriers, other techniques to divert root systems, etc. to protect the trees on-site.

Tree permits are only issued when the applicant demonstrates one or more of the following are met (reference Section 54-586(2)):

• Trees pose a safety hazard to traffic (vehicle and pedestrian) or threaten to disrupt utility services.
• Trees pose a safety hazard to people, buildings, structures, vehicles or other improvements.
• Trees completely prevent access to a lot.
• Trees unreasonably prevent development of a lot, or use thereof. 
• Regulations require fill to the extent that trees cannot be saved (requires engineer certification).
• Trees are diseased or weakened by age, storm, fire, or other injury to the extent they have lost most of their function and value, or poses a danger, as determined by the county.

The Trees Code provides certain exemptions (e.g., removal of exotic species; refer to Section 54-585 for further exemption details), and it is highly recommended that you contact a County Environmental Specialist to determine whether a permit is required before removing any native trees with a trunk diameter greater than four inches or palms with a clear trunk greater than eight feet.


Grand Trees

Native mature trees meeting the parameters for “Grand Tree” designation are an important part of our local canopy and provide unique and intrinsic values to the general public because of their age, size, and ecological value. As such, the county has standards for protecting and managing (e.g. trimming) Grand Trees to maintain their value. New developments are to be designed to avoid impacts to Grand Trees. See "TREE - Does your tree qualify as a Grand Tree" document below. Please contact one of the County Environmental Specialists at 941-861-5000 to determine if you have a Grand Tree on your property and to learn more about options to preserve these valued resources.


Tree Pruning

There are many common reasons to prune trees, including removing dead branches, improving the form and structure of the tree, and reducing risk. Sarasota County does not require permits for trimming of trees on private property, however a permit is required if trimming is within a Canopy Road Protection Zone or within a Right-of-Way. For the health of your trees, it is recommended that you consult with a certified arborist when considering the pruning of trees located on your property. 
To find a certified arborist and more information on tree pruning, please visit the International Society of Arborists webpage at www.treesaregood.org and the Florida ISA webpage at www.floridaisa.org.


Canopy Roads

A canopy road is a county-owned and maintained roadway with a minimum of 50 percent overhead canopy coverage comprised predominantly of native tree species. Segments of roadway can be nominated by the public or the Sarasota Tree Advisory Council to be designated by the Board of County Commissioners as a “Canopy Road”. There are approximately 24 miles of designated canopy road within the unincorporated portions of the county.   


Sarasota Tree Advisory Council

The Sarasota Tree Advisory Council (STAC) is a voluntary group of eight to fourteen interested citizens who provide recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners relating to the conservation and management of trees. Appointments to the STAC are for three year terms and can be renewed. The STAC typically meets once a month.


Tree City USA

In 2017, Sarasota County was named a "Tree City USA" community for the 26th consecutive year by the Arbor Day Foundation, an achievement that demonstrates the county's continued commitment to positive environmental stewardship. To learn more about the Tree City USA program, visit: www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa/


Water and Navigation Control Authority (WNCA) Permits

Environmental Permitting reviews applications and issues permits for the construction of docks, boat lifts, personal watercraft lifts, rock revetments and bulkheads, and similar structures, as well as maintenance dredges.

  • General Permits are typically for repair and replacement of existing permitted structures or installation of a boat lift at an existing dock. 
  • Minor Work Permits are typically required for new dock construction, modifications to existing dock structures, and for any proposed maintenance dredge projects.
  • Major Work Permits are required for any project that does not meet the standards for a General or Minor Work Permit.

The WNCA Code (Chapter 54, Article XX) provides the standards for these types of projects and our team remains solution-oriented to ensure that property rights, navigation and natural resources are protected while providing lawful access to waterfront property owners.


Earthmoving Permits

Environmental Permitting reviews and issues Earthmoving Permits for the regulation of excavating (including commercial borrow pits), filling (including creation of a foundation pad without an approved Building Permit), hauling and stockpiling. Certain activities that are not otherwise approved through a Land Development Regulations construction plan approval or an approved Building Permit require an Earthmoving Permit or earthmoving exemption determination.

Earthmoving Permit applications are reviewed for:

  • Potential impacts to historic stormwater flow.
  • Potential impacts to floodplains.
  • Haul route concerns.
  • Potential impacts to protected habitats and listed species.

The Earthmoving Code (Chapter 54, Article XII) provides permitting guidance and also includes a number of agricultural and non-agricultural exemptions. Since some of these exemptions may require review and written approval (exemption determination), please contact our office to speak to an Environmental Specialist about Earthmoving requirements before breaking ground.  


Coastal Setback Code

Environmental Permitting reviews and presents requests to the Board of County Commissioners regarding variances to the prohibition of construction and excavation seaward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line (GBSL) or waterward of the Barrier Island Pass Twenty-Year Hazard Line (PHL). These are coastal high hazard areas where development would be subjected to erosion, flooding and storm damage caused by wind, wave and surge impacts. 

Certain activities are exempt from the need for a variance and there are a limited number of activities that can be approved by staff through a Written Conditioned Exception (WCE). The Coastal Setback Code (Chapter 54, Article XXII) provides guidance. Before beginning any project seaward of the GBSL or PHL, please contact an Environmental Specialist at (941) 861-5000 for further information regarding the Coastal Setback Code requirements, exemptions and variance process. State, federal, and/or other local permits may also be required for work seaward of the county’s Gulf Beach Setback Line. Owners are responsible for obtaining any permit approvals which may be required by federal, state, or Sarasota County laws before conducting any work.  State Permitting Contacts for Construction Seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL): Contact one of the following state offices to obtain the appropriate FDEP permit application information for construction on our barrier islands located seaward of the CCCL or GBSL.

  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), South District Office, 2295 Victoria Ave., Suite 364, Fort Myers, Florida  33901.  
    Fort Myers Office: (239)-344-5600.
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), Office of Beaches and Coastal Systems, 2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, Florida  32399-3000.
    Tallahassee Office: (850) 245-7669.



Mangroves are salt tolerant trees commonly found along Florida’s Southwest coast. There are three types of mangroves in Sarasota County: red, black and white mangroves. Refer to the Guide to Mangroves of Florida to learn how to identify mangroves on your shoreline.

  • Mangroves filter pollution, provide protection to coastlines during storm events, prevent erosion, provide privacy to property owners and serve as an important habitat for a variety of organisms.
  • Since mangroves provide so many benefits to humans and the environment, they have special protections. The State of Florida developed a statewide law to protect mangroves from unnecessary removal or destruction.
    • The county received delegation from the state to administer local mangrove trimming and alteration permits in 2016.
  • County program goals include a local presence for permitting, compliance, education and outreach.
  • The program is based on the state Act allowing for rights of water view and conservation of mangrove resources vital to our coastal community.

Mangrove Trimming & Alteration Permits

  •  Many trimming activities in Sarasota County require a permit.
  • The county’s Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Code (Chapter 54, Article XXXV) provides guidance for exemptions and permit requirements.
  • Please also review the Homeowners’ Guide to Mangrove Trimming brochure.
  • A Professional Mangrove Trimmer (PMT) is required for any permitted trimming or alteration of mangroves.
    • A PMT is recommended for any exempt trimming on private property.

For questions about Mangrove Trimming and Alteration Permits, please contact an Environmental Specialist at (941) 861-5000.


Myakka River Protection Zone

The Myakka River is a state-designated “Wild and Scenic River” throughout Sarasota County, and recognized as a valuable environmental resource in our community. As such, the county adopted the Myakka River Protection Code (Chapter 54, Article XXXIII) that is applicable to all properties within 220 feet of the Myakka River Area. The primary goals of the Myakka River Protection Code are to continue to facilitate protection of the wild and scenic characteristics of the river while maintaining livability along the river for its neighbors.

In order to provide more information about the Myakka River Protection Code (Chapter 54, Article XXXIII) and the Myakka River Protection Zone (MRPZ) (Chapter 54, Article XXI), specific graphics showing each of the zones have been created for reference purposes.* Click on the link to the left that best describes your property Site specific conditions will be considered for all requests. 


Land Use and Development Reviews

Environmental Permitting reviews Comprehensive Plan Amendments, Land Use Petitions and Rezones, Land Development proposals, and Building Permits to ensure consistency with the Environment Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan and environmental elements of the Sarasota County Code of Ordinances.

  • Environmental Specialists review a wide variety of development proposals and address wetland and upland habitat protection, ensure owners are coordinating with the appropriate wildlife agencies for any protected wildlife concerns, use of best management practices, etc. 
  • Please see the Environmental Technical Manual and the Element 1-Enviromental Systems of the Comprehensive Plan for more information.


Your Backyard Lake, Pond or Preserve

Lakes and Ponds: The freshwater ponds in our neighborhoods are often man-made features of a stormwater system. These ponds help control and prevent flooding and treat water quality by filtering out many pollutants before they discharge to surface waters and flow into our bays or reach our groundwater, which is our main source of drinking water. The responsibility for permitting most stormwater systems rests with both the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and Sarasota County.  Many of the lakes and ponds in Sarasota County have “littoral zones”, or shallow water areas that support aquatic vegetation and mimic natural wetlands. The county monitors many littoral zones for success criteria established during the permit approval process. 

  • After a developer completes construction of a stormwater system in residential areas, the permit and the legal responsibility for maintaining these systems are typically transferred to a homeowners, condominium owners or property owners association.
  • The maintenance of the stormwater system then becomes the responsibility of the association.
  • Littoral zones are required to be monitored by a professional environmental consultant until success criteria is reached. Please be aware that littoral zone plants should not be removed, mowed or sprayed with herbicide and the routine stormwater pond maintenance should not negatively impact the littoral zone.
  • Coordination with your association representative or Property Manager is important if you have any concerns related to the management of the stormwater system and its associated littoral zone vegetation.

Preserves: Natural areas located within the Urban Service Area that have been designated as preserve or conservation areas during the development approval process play an integral role in the livability and character of our neighborhoods. You can find a variety of preserve areas within all land-use categories (e.g., single and multi-family residential, office, commercial, etc.).

  • After a developer completes construction, the permit requirements and legal responsibility for maintaining preserve areas are typically transferred to a homeowners, condominium owners or property owners association.
  • Some areas are managed voluntarily, while others are required to be managed to ensure consistency with development order conditions.
  • Coordination with your association representative or Property Manager is important if you have concerns about managing these backyard preserve and conservation areas.

For questions about backyard lakes, ponds and preserves, please contact an Environmental Specialist at (941) 861-5000.


Environmental Code Compliance

Environmental Permitting staff perform code compliance inspections and investigations for all environmental permitting programs.

  • If you would like to report any environmental compliance concerns, call the Contact Center at (941) 861-5000 and ask for Environmental Code Compliance assistance. 


Consultants and Contractors

There are numerous local environmental consultants, contractors, and professionals that can assist with your project. The list provided on this page is for informational purposes only.  The county recommends that prospective customers contact a number of companies on this list to determine information about product quality, product guarantee, cost, and whether they can handle your particular project.

  • Sarasota County does not endorse any company listed and a company’s absence from a list does not imply prejudice or impropriety. 
  • Should a company desire to add, remove, or modify their listing, please call the Contact Center at (941) 861-5000 and request assistance from Environmental Permitting.


Contact Info:

To learn more about Environmental Permitting and requirements for environmental protection in Sarasota County, call the Contact Center at (941) 861-5000 and ask to speak with an Environmental Specialist from Environmental Permitting.