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Commission may create subcommittee to address tree-removal accountability

An increase in the number of trees being removed in Washington’s Historic District is being noticed by the Historic Preservation Commission, which is scheduled to discuss the issue during its meeting Tuesday.

That discussion could lead to the commission creating a subcommittee to address the tree-removal matter, said Emily Rebert, the city’s community-development planner. The commission makes decisions on requests to remove trees in the Historic District.

“The historic preservation design guidelines require that people replant another tree somewhere on the property within 30 days. That gets really hard to do when it’s so hot out or so cold out that you can’t really plant a tree at that time. Some of the (commission’s) conditions have been to plant it at a later date, but there’s not been any accountability,” Rebert said. “We don’t know if people are going back and replanting the trees they have promised to do. The commission is interest in creating something for accountability.”

When it comes to replacing trees that have been removed, there are conditions, Rebert said. “They have to be the same type. A shade tree has to be replaced by another shade tree.”

From 2015 through May 18 of this year, the commission received 27 requests to remove trees, denying three requests and delaying action on three requests. A list of the requests indicates only two instances where removed trees were replaced and verified by the city. In 2015, four tree-removal requests were received and approved. In 2016, 10 requests were received, with six approved, three denied and two delayed. In 2017, 10 requests were received, with nine approved and one delayed. So far this year, three requests were received and approved.

The commission approves tree removals when a tree (usually damaged or dead) poses a threat of falling on nearby property, its root system poses damage to a structure’s foundation or an aging, damaged tree hinder growth of younger, more desirable trees.

The commission meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 102 E. Second St., Washington.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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