Environmental Permitting

The Environmental Permitting team ensures protection of the Sarasota 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. The team provides guidance, offering 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 projects related to:

  1. Trees, Mangroves, Protected Native Habitats
  2. Coastal, Shoreline or Myakka River Construction
  3. Development Review (e.g. Land Use Petitions, Land Development, Building Permits)
  4. Environmental Compliance and Monitoring

Trees

Tree Protection and Removal Permits

Sarasota County’s Trees Code (Chapter 54, Article XVIII) (external) recognizes the county’s exceptional tree resources and the associated benefits of trees, 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:

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 conditions 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 (external) 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, Sarasota 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.

Please contact a County Environmental Specialist 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.

Additional information is available in the Documents Library below.

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.

Additional Information

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 Sarasota County Commission as a “Canopy Road.”

There are approximately 24 miles of designated canopy road within the unincorporated portions of the county. 

Additional information is available in the Documents Library below.

Sarasota Tree Advisory Council

The Sarasota Tree Advisory Council (STAC) is a voluntary group of nine 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.

Mangroves

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. 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.

Many trimming activities in Sarasota County require a permit. A Professional Mangrove Trimmer (PMT) is required for any permitted trimming or alteration of mangroves (and is recommended for any exempt trimming on private property).

Please contact a County Environmental Specialist with additional questions about permits or becoming a registered PMT at 941‑861‑5000.

Additional Information

Land Use and Development

Earthmoving

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) (external) provides permitting guidance and also includes a number of agricultural and non-agricultural exemptions.

Some of these exemptions may require review and written approval (exemption determination).

Please contact a County Environmental Specialist about Earthmoving requirements before breaking ground at 941‑861‑5000.

Additional information is available in the Documents Library below.

Reviews

Environmental Permitting reviews the following to ensure consistency with the Environment Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan and environmental elements of the Sarasota County Code of Ordinance:

  • Comprehensive Plan Amendments
  • Land Use Petitions and Rezones
  • Land Development proposals
  • Building Permits

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. 

Additional information is available in the Documents Library below.

Preserves

Natural areas 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Coordination with your association representative or property manager is important if you have concerns about managing these backyard preserve and conservation areas.

Water

Water and Navigation Control Authority (WNCA) Permits

Environmental Protection Division (EPD) 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) (external) 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.

Additional information is available in the Documents Library below.

Coastal Setback

EPD reviews and presents requests to the Sarasota County Commission 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. The Coastal Setback Code (Chapter 54, Article XXII) (external) provides guidance. 

Owners are responsible for obtaining any permit approvals that may be required by federal, state, or Sarasota County laws before conducting any work. State, federal, and/or other local permits may also be required for work seaward of the county’s GBSL or PHL.

Please contact a County Environmental Specialist at 941‑861‑5000 for further information regarding the Coastal Setback Code requirements, exemptions, and variance process.

Additional Information

  • South District Office (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Fort Myers) 239‑344‑5600
  • Office of Beaches and Coastal Systems (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Tallahassee) 850-245-7669

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) (external) 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.

Additional Information

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 flow into our bays or reach our groundwater, which is our main source of drinking water.

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. 

  1. Upon completion of construction, the maintenance of the stormwater system is the responsibility of the homeowners, condominium owners or property owners association.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

RESTORE Act

Funds are available now through the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy (RESTORE) Act to spend on programs, projects and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region.

Sarasota County is proposing to use RESTORE Act Direct Component funds on a pilot project to improve Ted Sperling Park, located at 2201 Ben Franklin Drive and 190 Taft Drive in Sarasota. These improvements include construction of a portion of the city of Sarasota’s multi-use recreational trail and replacement of an existing boardwalk.

Additional information is available in the Documents Library below.

West Coast Inland Navigation District Grants Program

The West Coast Inland Navigation District, or WCIND, is a multi-county special taxing authority encompassing Charlotte, Lee, Manatee, and Sarasota counties. Established by the Florida Legislature in 1947 to complement the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the construction and maintenance of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, or ICW. The District’s mission is to preserve and enhance the commercial, recreational, and ecological values of local waterways.

FY20 Grant Applicants

The information/coordination meeting for anyone planning to apply for a WCIND grant for FY20 for any project categories other than Law Enforcement project categories is scheduled for Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 3 p.m.

The meeting will be held at 1001 Sarasota Center Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34240 in Conference Room #2.

This pre-application coordination meeting will include the application process, reporting requirements, any changes to rule/guideline interpretations and project eligibility, as well as other pertinent background information and Q&A.

Additional information is available in the Documents Library below.

Wildlife

Sea Turtle Gopher Tortoise Snowey Plover and Chick on Siesta Beach

Local Protection

Sea Turtle

The Sarasota County Marine Turtle Protection Ordinance (MTPO) (external) was adopted in 1997 to protect nesting and hatching sea turtles from artificial light and obstructions on the beach. Artificial light draws turtles away from the water, which can lead to injury or death.

Ordinance Highlights
  • Enforced on unincorporated county beaches and in the City of Sarasota during nesting season (May 1 through October 31)
  • Requires lighting visible from the beach is shielded and that long-wavelength turtle-safe bulbs (external) are used
  • Furniture and recreational items are prohibited on the beach overnight, except where a Recreational Use Agreement has been issued (these items can trap turtles, causing injury or harm)

All sea turtle species found in Florida waters are also protected under:

Additional information is available in the Documents Library below.

Florida Manatee

Sarasota County is one of 13 counties designated as a priority protection site for manatees and is required by Florida Statutes to develop a Manatee Protection Plan (MPP).

The MPP reduces the likelihood of boat-manatee interactions. A MPP review is required for development proposals that include spaces for one or more motorized boats (wet or dry slips); this does not apply to single-family docks.

Manatees are also protected under:

Additional information is available in the Documents Library below.

State and Federal Protection

Developing or building in Sarasota County? You may need to consider the following species before you begin:

Bald Eagle

Condition

Develop within 660 feet of a nest

Organizations
Contacts
  • FWS Permit Information 404-679-4163
  • FWC Eagle Plan Coordinator 941-894-6675 (eagle_plan@myfwc.com)
Additional Information

Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoises cannot swim well and can easily drown. Please do not place a Gopher Tortoise or hatchlings in the water. Gopher Tortoises can be distinguished from sea turtles by their limbs. Gopher Tortoises have toes with claws on each toe, while sea turtles have flippers with only one or two claws on each foreflipper.

Condition

Develop/propose activity within 25 feet of a burrow

Organization
  • FWC (external)
Contact
  • FWC (see link above)
Additional Information

Florida Scrub-Jay

Conditions
  • Develop within habitat,
  • Parcel is at least one acre, or
  • Develop within 850-foot radius of a known family
Organization
Contact
  • USFWS (see link above)

Please call 941-861-5000 for questions about property identification number (PID) list.

See the available Scrub Jay Review Parcel List in the document library below.

Snowy Plover

Sarasota County’s Snowy Plover Adaptive Management Plan aims to protect critical habitat on county managed land by directing human activity away from nesting sites and minimize opportunities for predators by relocating trash cans away from the open beach.

Additional Information

Document Library

Environmental Permitting and Projects