CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – Balancing private property rights with the need to protect the environment is a challenge local governments must face and one way they do that is through tree ordinances. In Carolina Beach, there has been a cry from residents for town leaders to take a more active role in protecting trees but a proposed bill could make that more of a challenge.
House Bill 496 would strip the rights of cities and counties to enact tree ordinances unless the General Assembly gave them explicit permission to do so. It’s a bill that towns across the state are speaking out against.
Carolina Beach Mayor LeAnn Pierce said the trees in the town are an important part of the community and are part of what gives the town its charm. But, right now, the town does not have any sort of tree preservation ordinance. Moreover, there are some landscaping standards that the town enforces but when it comes to any prohibitions on cutting trees, there are none.
It’s a fine line that the town must balance between government overreach and land rights.
“We certainly believe in private property rights and that’s something we are going to look at with that ordinance and I know there are all kinds of options like banking a tree and putting it somewhere else but we’re hoping to preserve as many as we can,” Pierce said.
When it comes to the proposed bill, the town actually took a formal stance against it at a previous town council meeting.
“We believe that each community knows what’s best for their community as far as trees go, they can make a more strict ordinance or a looser ordinance based on their needs … we want the municipalities and communities to have control over their own tree ordinances,” Pierce said.
The bill, as currently written, would not apply to New Hanover County or its municipalities, according to Wilmington’s Legislative Affairs specialist Tony McEwen. He claims the county was granted blanket permission several years ago to enact tree ordinances.
The bill did pass the N.C. House and now sits in the state Senate. It would have to pass that chamber before heading to the governor’s desk.
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