Helen of Marlowe's Blog

NC House Bill 1191 – Protecting Trees Not Allowed

Posted in "North Carolina" by helenofmarlowe on June 10, 2014

   Generally, Republicans pride themselves on fighting “big government” and keeping government out of local issues. I hope the Republican-controlled NC legislature will get back in touch with its history and tradition, and will not move forward with House Bill 1191, misleadingly named Authority To Adopt Local Ordinances. The bill actually does the opposite of what the name implies.

   Quoting from a column in the June 3 Winston-Salem Journal entitled Locals Should Control Local Environment, “this bill would prevent municipal and county authorities from creating and enforcing reasonable tree ordinances and landscaping standards developed to protect our quality of life.”

   In 2009, a committee of dedicated citizens worked for more than two years to draft recommendations for a tree ordinance for Winston-Salem, an ordinance which would prevent clear-cutting in large new developments, and require developers to plant shade trees in new parking lots. The City-County Planning Board drafted an ordinance based on the committee’s recommendations. The Sierra Club, home builders and realtors, the Neighborhood Alliance, and our City Council all supported our city’s tree ordinance, and the Council’s vote to adopt the ordinance was unanimous.

   And now comes House Bill 1191, stating that no county or city in NC shall adopt or continue in effect any ordinance, rule, regulation, or resolution regulating the removal, replacement or preservation of trees on private property within its jurisdiction.

   The North Carolina Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects sees the folly of this proposed legislation, and warns that this would eliminate the authority that cities and counties now have to enforce tree ordinances, including those involving the protection of trees during construction and the protection of historic and heritage trees from removal.

    Why does our NC General Assembly believe it is their business to prevent communities from passing and enforcing local ordinances?

   Trees in cities absorb stormwater runoff and help with controlling air pollution, as well as reducing heat-island effects in urban areas. Trees cool the city by shading houses and streets, and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves. Trees reduce energy used for air conditioning, reduce soil erosion, provide canopy for wildlife.

   And many a summertime grocery shopper will choose the supermarket that has shade trees in the parking lot.

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