Ten Sun City Center homeowner’s associations have banded together to get a total of $100,000 from Hillsborough County to beautify the community’s medians.
They received a portion of this money during the county’s 2014/2015 budget year, and have again qualified for it for the 2016/2017 budget year.
The funds all come from the Hillsborough County Neighborhood Grant program, which is thoroughly explained at http://tinyurl.com/nebntgt. Half the money is for planting native trees (and some shrubs and plants) and half is aimed at water conservation.
“Each of 10 homeowner’s associations applied for $2,500 in mini-grants from each of two funding sources,” said Wanda Sloan, manager and neighborhood liaison for Hillsborough County Community Relations Office, which represents more than 9,000 individual neighborhoods. “Ten $2,500 grants came from the Low Volume Irrigation Mini-Grant, and 10 came from the Tree Program Mini-Grant,” Sloan said.
According to their agreement, by January 2017, the Sun City Center Community Association will be responsible for all upkeep of the medians in their community.
“This is why it is very important to us that we use only plants and trees that require little hands-on labor,” said David Floyd, association president, pointing to one median across from the association’s office that is nearly completed.
Sloan explained that the tree grant is a year-round matching grant program to plant trees in public areas, private common areas, and especially in community-maintained areas and road rights-of-way within or connected to the neighborhood, as defined on the county’s website.
The low volume irrigation systems grant is aimed at water conservation. Funds may be used to retrofit current systems or install new systems in areas with a readily available water hookup.
The water grant is overseen by both the county’s Neighborhood Relations Office, Cooperative Extension Service and water department. The tree grant is administered by the Neighborhood Relations Office in collaboration with the Transportation and Land Development Review Division of the Planning and Growth Management Department and the Cooperative
“We based the second funding on what was done by the neighborhoods when they were first funded,” Sloan said.
In Sun City Center’s case, the first medians that were replanted earned the community the “Best Beautification Project 2014,” and was recently presented by County Commissioners to Ed Barnes, chairman of the 2014 Florida Friendly Task Force, and John Jackson, chief designer of the plantings done on N. Pebble Beach Boulevard.
Rules dictate that 50 percent of the money for the project come from the community and people must participate actively as in pulling up plants or planting new ones, Sloan said.
“This was done in Sun City Center,” she stated, which is why the second round of grants was awarded.
She explained that most of the money in the tree fund was put there by developers when they cleared land.
“People are required to plant a tree for every tree they take out and they must have a permit to take out a tree,” she said.
The cost of these permits varies by species and age of each tree to be removed. Some trees may not be taken out.
“Developers would rather pay into this fund than replace 6,000 trees,” she said. “It’s in the agreement to maintain their right of way.”
The county’s Development Services Department going through permits checks on every tree, she said.
Sun City Center has had a public/private agreement with Hillsborough County for more than 20 years, since WCI Communities became developer, concerning its medians because they want their entrance to the community to have much more on the medians than the county can mow and maintain. The new agreement will release all responsibility from the county, so the committee in charge of the median planting is being very careful about what goes in the ground, Floyd said.
As for the irrigation grant, it goes to retrofit and add to the current slow-watering systems in the medians that supply water to the plantings from lakes and ponds, Sloan said.
“They already have a good system of soaker hoses there that don’t take nearly as much [water] as sprinklers,” she added. “This makes them a good candidate for the water grant.”
Sloan explained that after the money is spent and the work is done, the county will inspect to make sure the rules have been followed.
Any neighborhood that wants to apply for either of these two grants may do so if the rules on the website are followed and the application is received by Sept. 30. Two other mini-grants are also available: The Community Clean-Up Mini-Grant and the Neighborhood Mini-Grant, which are also explained in full on the website cited above.