Local News

Raleigh approves pine straw limits for apartments, townhomes

Posted May 4, 2010 4:16 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2010 4:59 p.m. EDT

— The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday approved restrictions on the use of pine straw in landscaping outside apartment buildings and townhouse complexes.

Despite a plea from Mayor Charles Meeker to keep pine straw 20 to 30 feet from buildings, the council decided to go with the Raleigh Fire Department's recommendation that pine straw be kept at least 10 feet from combustible structures, aside from single-family homes and duplexes.

The fire department recommended the change after a March 23 fire that destroyed seven homes in the Highland Creek subdivision off Louisburg Road in northeast Raleigh.

Pine straw next to units in the Pine Knolls Townes complex, off Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, also helped spread a February 2007 fire that damaged or destroyed 38 townhouses.

Meeker said last month that Raleigh didn't go far enough in changing building codes after the Pine Knolls Townes fire, and it was time to make up for that oversight.

The restrictions take effect Dec. 1, giving property owners time to move pine straw back from their buildings and replace it with other ground cover.

The ordinance doesn't address pine straw outside single-family homes and duplexes because the fire department doesn't have the authority to enforce regulations on them. Authorities have said building inspectors could enforce tougher pine straw rules on those residences, and city officials said they might revisit the issue.

Also during the council's Tuesday meeting, the board voted to seek out information about acquiring land for a proposed transit hub in downtown Raleigh. The council established a task force to study the transit hub which would bring buses, trains and high-speed rail to one location on South West Street between West Morgan and West Martin streets.

The task force will report to the city council. The Passenger Rail Task Force's first meeting is scheduled for May 10.

The council also decided to look further at a proposal to ban smoking in city parks.