Fayetteville city leaders seek to balance tree preservation and city growth

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Preserving trees while encouraging development was one of the issues front and center at Fayetteville City Council’s work session Monday night.

“The trees play a role in so much,” Fayetteville City Council Member Tisha Waddell said. “It’s not just about getting rid of them so we can build.”

Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin says the current re-planting policy isn’t working as intended. 

“You really can’t replace a 200-year oak tree with a crape myrtle,” Mayor Colvin said.

He planned to bring up a proposal at Monday night’s city meeting that would expand the ways the city can use money collected from the fee developers pay to cut down trees.

He wants the money to go toward expanding green spaces in the city, instead of just sitting in the fund that’s already racked up more than $250,000.

“I don’t think the intent was to accumulate a quarter-million dollar slush fund with fees being paid and still not preserve the trees,” Colvin said.

The City Council agreed Monday night to have staff bring specific preservation measures back as well as expand green space initiatives and use $312,000 in a tree fund.

Council recently voted to change the Unified Development Ordinance by lowering the prices developers have to pay to cut down certain large trees.

“If you have a large tree you may have a $4,000 or $5,000 situation,” Colvin said.

Waddell is the only council member who voted against slashing the price in half. She would have supported lowering the fee, but not by half.

“I think if I would have gone along with the rest of the council this conversation very likely would have died,” Waddell said.

Colvin says he also wants to change the current ordinance that allows for mass cutting of trees on a single property.  

“At the end of the day if the intent is tree preservation you shouldn’t be able to buy your way out of that,” Colvin said. “I think this is a more practical way to address the real concern and that is beautification in the community.”

Tisha says the standards developers have to follow when it comes to removing trees shouldn’t be lowered just to make it cheaper for them to build.

“I think for us to be able to really place the needs of the community over the needs of the development community and to look at how we can protect and preserve our ecology while still making sure people want to build in our city, I think that’s the best possible outcome,” Waddell said.

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