Commission wants better accountability for tree removal

Published 8:35 am Tuesday, July 10, 2018


During its meeting Wednesday, Washington’s Historic Preservation Commission is scheduled fore an update of the tree policy for the city’s Historic District.

During its June meeting, the commission decided to form a tree subcommittee to study and make recommendations concerning tree removals — and replacements of removed trees — in the Historic District. Commission members William Kenner and Cheri Vaughn volunteer to serve on the subcommittee. The commission indicated it would like for former commission members Monica Ferrari and Mary Pat Mussleman to serve on the subcommittee.

The commission wants more accountability regarding the replacement of trees from Historic District property owners who receive permission to remove trees from their properties. The commission’s guidelines require people replant another similar tree somewhere on the property within 60 days.

Sometimes that’s difficult for several reasons, including weather factors such as temperature, Emily Rebert, the city’s community-development planner, told the commission.

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.

Since the beginning of 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.

At the June meeting, commission members also said an option to consider is allowing property owner to donate a tree to the city for planting at a city park instead of planting a replacement tree on the property owner’s land. Commission Chairman Mark Everett said the subcommittee might want to address issues such as appropriate places for replacement tree to be planted and specifying appropriate species of trees when it comes to replacing a removed tree.

The commission meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday 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.

email author More by Mike