A Charlotte, North Carolina, resident was scared for the future of the heritage trees in his neighborhood after his homeowners association cut one down, WCNC reported.
“Heritage trees” are defined by the new Charlotte Tree Ordinance as “any tree native to North Carolina … with a diameter at breast height of 30 inches or greater.” In other words, if the species is local to the area and the part of the tree trunk 4.5 feet above ground level is more than 30 inches across, then the tree received protections under this ordinance. The measure was adopted this May.
Under the terms of the ordinance, anyone who wants to remove a heritage tree needs a permit to do it. Reportedly, Ward Welch told his HOA that when it came to cut the first tree down in his neighborhood. However, he told the television station that the HOA didn’t believe him.
Welch was attached to the trees in his neighborhood; they were part of the reason he moved there. “It’s very special,” Welch said. “It cuts down on heat and it’s nice. I was impressed by the tree cover.”
However, after seeing one heritage tree removed, Welch became worried that the one that has shaded his home might also be on the chopping block. Then he would lose the cooling shade, and the neighborhood would lose a mature tree that filters out pollution and produces oxygen.
According to Tim Porter of the Community Tree Canopy Preservation District, Welch’s HOA violated the ordinance, WCNC reported. After Welch notified Porter’s office of the incident, two foresters visited the site and determined that the tree was in fact a heritage tree and qualified for protection.
However, the city of Charlotte told WCNC it will not fine the HOA for the first offense. “Currently, violation enforcement related to the unauthorized removal of heritage trees is focusing on awareness building and replanting work,” it said in a statement.
“No monetary fines will be assessed related to unauthorized heritage tree removals, unless the removal work was a willful violation, until the completion of a tree canopy regulation awareness campaign that will be initiated later this summer/fall by the City of Charlotte’s Community Tree Canopy Preservation Division.”
The city did confirm that Welch’s still-standing tree is covered by the law. WCNC reported its diameter as over 37 inches.
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