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Residents Tell Developer: No Tree, No Business

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SOUTHERN PINES — Southern Pines residents and a Cary-based developer are battling it out over a sprawling cedar tree in Southern Pines.

Residents want the tree saved, but the developer says it has no choice but to remove it. Tree supporters say if the tree goes, they’ll boycott the steakhouse restaurant MVOC plans to build in its place.

The State Historic Preservation Office will rule on whether the tree has historic value. Experts say to be called historic, the tree would likely have to be linked to a specific historical figure or event.

Whether or not a link can be made, Pete Gulley, who runs a garden center in Southern Pines, said tree supporters pack a lot of punch in the town.

“This is a real close-knit town, and everybody discusses everything, and everybody knows everything,” he said.

Southern Pines has a long tradition of fiercely protecting its trees. Residents have been known to tie themselves to trees to prevent their removal.

“Don’t cut the tree down. Whoever moves in there, you cut the tree down, no business,” said a woman on Broad Street, who declined to give her name.

“Just look at it, it’s absolutely magnificent,” said Joanie Bowder, a Southern Pines resident. “Everybody talks about it. Everybody’s protesting the restaurant.”

WRAL tried to reach officials with MVOC, but our calls were not returned. They told The Pilot newspaper that they considered building around the tree and naming the restaurant after it, but an architect told them it wouldn't work.

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