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The Daily Tar Heel

Save the trees; Ordinance seeks to protect natural beauty of Chapel Hill

Proposed changes to a town ordinance that would further protect its trees would benefit Chapel Hill.

The ordinance currently regulates certain residential and commercial property where more than 5,000 square feet of tree coverage would be cleared, regardless of the lot’s size.

The revisions would create further restrictions, including the need for a permit to cut down trees 6 inches or larger in diameter if the lot is larger than half an acre.

Critics of the ordinance say it overly restricts development of future and existing businesses, as the changes to the ordinance would further restrict their ability to cut trees. Others say it unduly infringes on personal property rights.

But by creating these restrictions, the town preserves the ambience of Chapel Hill. Its quaint and natural vibe lends itself to preserving the area’s environment.

Further, most residences will be unaffected by the changes to the ordinance. About 58 percent of single-family and two-family residential lots in Chapel Hill are not large enough to be affected.

The other 42 percent would still be able to obtain a permit to cut down trees with certain stipulations, including planting replacement trees or paying a $1,000 fee for each tree.

Some say that this puts too heavy a burden on developers.

For example, if University Mall was developed under these restrictions, it would have to add about 1,680 trees, or alternatively, pay nearly $1.7 million.

However, these restrictions are necessary to keep developers from changing the town’s environment.

Although the regulation might be nearly unenforceable, it would send a message that Chapel Hill should be kept in its natural state.

When developers come to the town and commercialize the area, they take a little bit away from its small-town essence.

The change in the ordinance would help keep things the way they are and ought to be.

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