Local News

While Clear-Cutting Rules Defined, Raleigh Trees Continue To Come Down

Posted January 10, 2002

— When Charles Meeker became Raleigh's new mayor, many voters thought that the clear cutting of trees would stop immediately.

A special committee is working on ways to make developers save more mature trees, but so far, it is still business as usual.

When Jonathan Boes looked out his North Raleigh window Monday morning, he said he was horrified to watch the woods behind his home disappear.

"The frustration for me is that I'm not advocating that people can't develop. I'm just saying come in, put your road in, put your sewer in and then leave everything else up. And as each house goes in, you clear what is necessary to put the house in and leave everything else standing," Boes said.

Wakefield Development's John Myers oversees the construction for Bedford at Falls River.

"There is the constant pull and tug of existing property owners versus developers," he said.

Myers explained that clear cutting is permitted and necessary to make way for the 1,800 homes that will fill the 600 acres at Falls of Neuse and Dunn Roads.

"It's difficult to get density without doing some substantial clearing and grading of the site as a whole," he said.

Boes thought Wakefield might be breaking the law, so he called out city conservation inspectors to investigate. They found nothing illegal.

"People are concerned about, obviously, development. We're out here to make sure they're following those approved plans that they're supposed to. And in this case, they are so far," conservation inspector Tim Lyles said.

That is little consolation for Boes and his neighbors.

"It just comes down to money. The reason they're getting this all done is because, probably the guy cutting the trees is going to give a better price if they do it all at once," Boes said.

"We have some examples where 30, 50, even 70 acres are cleared at once and there's no reason for that," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Meeker campaigned on a promise to curtail clear cutting. But with no new ordinance in effect yet, he has no power to stop projects approved months ago.

"Where I hope we're headed is, that in addition to open space, we have buffers around sites. We also preserve clusters of mature trees in residential settings. We try to put buildings in between the trees and don't just clear cut a whole site," Meeker said.

"As people look at it there are other areas that need to be mass cleared in order to transition density and move densities around. But the real positive is we end up with a lot of save area," said Myers.

The developer said that the project includes 200 acres of land preserved for open space, just not in Boes' backyard.

"Standing here, looking around knowing that I used to walk back here with my dog and hang out and now it's history, yeah, of course it hurts," he said.

Meeker said that he hopes tighter guidelines on clear cutting will be in place within a few months. He admitted, however, that some clear cutting will still be needed for various high-density developments.

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