Local News

Business Says Tree-Pruning Fine Cuts Too Deep

Posted August 13, 2007

— A Raleigh business is facing a $17,000 fine for what the city says was over-pruning its trees.

The city said a landscaping company went too far on a job, and Smithfield’s Chicken N Bar-B-Q should pay. The restaurant said the fine amounts to a month’s profit, and the owners are appealing.

The owners said they were trying to make the restaurant on Jones Sausage Road look nice after employees noticed some limbs were browning among the nearly 40 trees on the property. They said they did not even know the city had an ordinance governing pruning.

“I think we do a fantastic job on keeping our landscaping nice and neat,” manager Scott Booe said.

The city disagreed.

"$17,000 — it's a lot to deal with,” Booe said. “I mean, that is your bottom line for a month."

City inspectors said the cuts to the trees hurt branch formation and bud placement.

The inspector who cited Smithfield's told WRAL that as many as a dozen of these fines can go out to businesses in a month. One business was ticketed $50,000, he said.

"Over trees, over trees — something as minor as trees," Booe said.

Smithfield’s attorneys argued to the Raleigh Board of Adjustment that they had no clue the ordinance existed and that the fine was too high.

The board continued the case for 30 days, and a deputy city attorney told the board she thinks the city can come to a compromise with Smithfield's owners.

City inspectors noted that homeowners could be fined if their properties are 2 acres or larger and they improperly prune trees within a city street right-of-way — but that has never happened.


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  • shine Aug 15, 2007

    Sounds like to me that the inspectors are trying to "validate" their jobs - occupation protection -.

  • TooMuchGovt Aug 14, 2007

    There is almost no limit to the misery that mean spirited government employees can inflict on innocent citizens. I live in the neighborhood just outside of Raleigh (but in Raleigh's planning jurisdiction) where a man was fined for hanging a motorcycle in one of his trees. No warnings; just a big fine.

  • richard2 Aug 14, 2007

    How much for a whole tree? The limbs will grow back. Raleigh you got better things to do.

  • Historians 12th Aug 14, 2007

    FE, you said Shreveport LA is already ahead of you:

    I said that's great for Louisiana, but it has no relevance in North Carolina.

    That means it does not help us here.

  • whatusay Aug 14, 2007

    I agree with "FE" - do something productive...fine citizens who wear their pants so low you can see their underware and their cracks. What is more offensive..vulgar public display of body parts, or pruned tree limbs. To fine a business for trying to improve their landscape is stupid. (But, to try to get revenues for indecent public display would bring on Al and Jessie, and Raleigh does not want that national coverage)

  • TheWB Aug 14, 2007

    I wonder if he wouldn't come out ahead if he cut them all down and replanted new un-pruned trees? 40 trees, $17,000 comes to $425 per tree. I'll do it for $300 a tree.

  • O-Get-A-Grip Aug 14, 2007

    What kind of mess is that? Who comes up with this stuff! At the very least the city could ahve given them a warning or something....geez. What a crock!

  • 1crazygirl Aug 14, 2007

    Another one of Raleighs ridiculous rules.

  • fedupwithitall Aug 14, 2007

    (919) 516-2495

    That is the Raleigh Inspector's office. You can call and complain to them just as easily as you can comment here. I did. In fact, here is there address.

    Exchange Plaza
    Suite 404 & 504
    Raleigh, NC 27601

    Send them a letter, or better yet, go there in person to complain. Letting government officials know how you feel is a start. Letting them know you will make a point to vote elected officials out of office the next time around is a better start.

  • fedupwithitall Aug 14, 2007

    A lot of people here seem to think the landscaper did not obey the law. The law, however did not say the trees could not be pruned. The restaurant is not being fined for pruning the trees. They were fined for pruning the trees too much. Too much pruning is an opinion. The landscaper may have been fully aware of the ordinance, and they may have believed they were in compliance. It is the inspector's opinion that the trees were excessively pruned...just an opinion. This, to me, is simply a $17K difference of opinion.