CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A proposed bill sitting in North Carolina Senate would require towns to get approved if they want to impose local tree ordinances. Now, some local towns and environmentalists are speaking out against it.
Representative Mark Brody co-sponsored HB 496. He says towns needing to get approval to regulate tree removal have been a law in the state for decades. Over time, he says municipalities stopped following it, and this bill would reinforce it. Opponents of the bill say if restricting tree regulation is already a law, it shouldn’t be.
“The benefits of trees are just innumerable. So, I cannot fathom why we would want to go anywhere near the idea of being able to give developers carte blanche,” said Charlotte Tree Advisory Chairwoman Kim Hombs. “Anywhere that has a lot of trees, immediately you slow down. You calm down.”
Rep. Brody says the bill itself does not regulate trees. It simply requires municipalities to get approval if they want to restrict tree removal.
“The law states that if you want to develop a tree ordinance, then you need to write that down and submit it to the general assembly for approval,” said Rep. Brody. “These local governments have continued to establish these tree ordinances, and some have become quite Draconian.”
Charlotte got approval to regulate tree removal in 2000. Kannapolis, on the other hand, never submitted their ordinance. If this bill passes and they don’t get their tree ordinance approved, it would mean developers there could take down trees at will.
“Let my community make a decision about what is appropriate for trees in our community. We might like a lot of trees. We might like the idea that trees build value for our subdivisions,” said Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant.
At this point, Hinnant says this is more than just a fight to save trees. He says it’s a fight for control over his own town’s desires.
“Let’s work on the issues that are really issues for the citizens of North Carolina,” he said.
HB496 passed the House in May. It now sits in the Senate. No date has been set for a vote, but if it gets signed into law, it would go into effect in July 2022.