Published: Sep 27, 2012 08:38 AM
Modified: Sep 27, 2012 08:39 AM
HOLLY SPRINGS - Skinflints can put their pruning shears away.
The town has officially nipped a plan to charge residents for the maintenance of trees along residential sidewalks.
Under a recently approved policy, the town will ask but not require homeowners to care for “street trees,” which typically sit in the right-of-way between the sidewalk and the curb. The Holly Springs Town Council also has reinstated a requirement that subdivision builders line their streets with trees.
The new maintenance rules are aimed at a growing problem: The branches of curbside trees can block sidewalks and important signs, but the maintenances staff isn’t large enough to handle the thousands of trees that live in a practical no-man’s-land, said Planning Director Gina Clapp.
Homeowners, however, weren’t anxious to take on the cost either.
Steedmont Drive resident Marnie Sabo said she “would be furious” if she received a bill for the trees near her stretch of sidewalk.
“I didn’t plant that tree,” she said.
Town staff members got the message. “We’ve had very constructive criticism,” said planner Laura Holloman.
Under the new policy, the town will first warn neighborhoods of a coming round of tree inspections, then notify residents of any arbor problems. Residents will then have up to a month to do the work themselves before the town pays for or performs a trimming; in emergencies, the town could take action sooner.
The public works department gets calls about street trees “probably on a daily basis,” said Luncie McNeil, the department’s director. Currently, the department spends about six man-hours a week on trees; under the new policy, the town will bring in a certified arborist for a maintenance program.
McNeil was unsure the new policy would reduce the labor burden on the town, but was hopeful that the change “would bring some awareness to the (problem).”
The town also will remove dead and dangerous trees, but homeowners will be responsible for replanting the trees, if they so choose. Homeowners also will be responsible for hazardous or troublesome trees on their lawns, and will still be allowed to do “general aesthetic maintenance” on their street trees, she said.
With the town officially responsible for all those trees, the government likely will have to open its wallet. The resolution calls for an unspecified amount of funding for a certified arborist to handle tree maintenance.
“We’ve got miles and miles of streets in our subdivisions that have varying degrees of maintenance,” said Councilman Tim Sack. “We’ll do it right, instead of going out and lopping off branches.”
The town of Cary and Apex take similar approaches to Holly Springs’ new policy; both western Wake County towns allow residents to do the work themselves, but ultimately foot the bill for right-of-way tree maintenance.
In other maintenance news, Holly Springs authorized about $136,000 for a leaf-collecting truck to replace faulty equipment.