The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Striking the balance: New canopy regulation would save money and the environment

While a canopy requirement did not pass at last night’s Town Council meeting, we are confident that the town is moving in the right direction in ultimately instituting one within proper limits.

Canopy coverage — that is, the percentage of surface area covered by foliage growing at least 20 feet above ground — is a key consideration for both ecological and aesthetic reasons. According to a staff memo to Town manager Roger Stancil, “Maintaining a robust tree cover positively impacts air and water resources.”

Furthermore, because canopy coverage can be quantified, it is an easy tool to regulate air quality and is precisely the kind of thing that should be on the Council’s radar.

Whereas many aspects of air, water and soil quality are so intricate that efforts to control them on a small scale are frustrating, canopy coverage is a concrete metric which the Council can and should regulate.

The proposed versions of the ordinance vary in the criteria determining which lots are subject to these regulations.

The version recommended by Stancil and town staff last night only requires that the standards be applied to projects that are large enough and whose tree removal is significant enough to require Council approval, as with Specialty Use Permits. We agree with this direction.

This version makes the most sense because it balances aesthetic concerns with economic ones. As town staff continue to refine the ordinance, they should preserve this principle. There is no need, nor should there be, to go so far as to devote additional resources to regulate canopy coverage for the average residential home.

Canopy coverage is a legitimate concern and is very much within the Council’s right to regulate. While it is worth taking the time to institute it correctly, a canopy coverage requirement should be enacted.

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