Cary invites stakeholders to discuss tree rules

aspecht@newsobserver.comNovember 11, 2013 

McDonald’s is building an environmentally-friendly restaurant on Walnut Street and has removed some trees to do so.

PAUL A. SPECHT — Buy Photo

  • If you go

    Cary will host a meeting about its rules on removing large trees 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at Town Hall, 316 N. Academy St., Cary.

— Residents and developers can weigh in Thursday on Cary’s rules about removing large trees – a topic that has stirred some controversy.

Cary officials will meet with stakeholders at 6 p.m. at Town Hall to talk about the removal of champion trees, which are trees bigger than 30 inches in diameter or are considered especially valuable.

Cary tightened its rules on removing champion trees in June. Formerly, people were allowed to cut down champion trees so long as they received permission from the planning director.

The new rules prohibit anyone from removing a champion tree unless it is damaged or diseased beyond repair in the eyes of a tree specialist such as a registered landscape architect or certified arborist. Rules also require those who remove champion trees to post a bond “or other surety” that would be used to replace the replacement tree if it dies within a year.

Developers whose plans do not meet the town’s standards would have to seek approval from the Town Council.

Developers lined up at a Town Council meeting in October to protest the rule changes. Some said the new rules would make development more costly and more time consuming.

Tim Minton, executive vice president for the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, suggested many developers would rather beg the Town Council for an exemption to the rule than follow it. Even then, the process would be costly and unpredictable, he said.

“You’re going to have to hire public relations people to make presentations (to the council),” Minton said. “And still, the council’s preferences may change each meeting.”

Minton commended Cary for allowing debate on the issue. He said he hopes the town will come up with a champion tree ordinance that’s clear, predictable and fair.

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said she’s confident the two sides can come to an agreement like a similar group did several years ago, when the town brought developers and environmentalists together as part of a tree preservation task force.

“It’s always important to have stakeholders weigh in on ordinance changes,” she said. “We’re looking for a collaborative process to create the best ordinance.”

Comments and input received from the meeting will be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board at its Nov. 18 meeting. The board is expected to then consider amending the rules and recommend a course of action to the Town Council.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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