The full question:
“Living in the city of Wilmington, why can I not cut down a tree on my own property if my lot is over 2 acres, but if my lot is under 2 acres, I can cut down as many trees as I want (per Wilmington City Code Section 18-449)?”
And the answer:
Assistant City Attorney R. Lynn Coleman referred to what is sometimes known in Wilmington as the “Land Development Code.”
Wilmington City Code, Chapter 18, includes within Article 8, sections entitled “Landscaping and Tree Preservation,” “Tree Preservation” and “Tree Removal.”
Warning: the city code language can be dense as a thicket.
Section 18-471, which is part of Division III on Tree Removal, provides that “no person, directly or indirectly, shall remove any tree from public or private property without first obtaining a tree removal permit from the city manager.”
“This is the beginning point, even though it shows up well into the Article and comes sequentially in the Code after the exemptions, which are set out in Section 18-449,” Coleman said in an email response to the reader question.
She further explained:
“Therefore, any tree cutting within the city limits must be preceded by obtaining a permit to remove the tree; however, if the property falls within one of the exemptions listed in Section 18-449 (b) or (c) [single-family detached residentially zoned and used lots of two acres or less; or bona fide agricultural land use], then the permit requirement does not apply.”
Notwithstanding the exemption for single-family detached residentially zoned and used lots of 2 acres or less, if the subdivision within which the lot lies was required to install street trees or buffers or other types of mandatory landscaping as a development condition or in order for the subdivision to be approved, those required plantings, whether trees or bushes, cannot be removed even if the property owner obtains a tree-cutting permit, Coleman continued.
“It is likely that the exemption for single-family detached residentially zoned and used lots of 2 acres or less was included in the ordinance to allow the average urban city dweller to control the look and feel of their home environment without interference from their local city officials, unless the situation should fall under some other safety or police power concern such as minimum housing regulations and maintaining a nuisance as defined in our ordinances,” Coleman said.
Date posted: September 6, 2011
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