By Melinda Johnston
Matthews, NC (March 20, 2011)- For the past few months, Matthews commissioners and the Matthews Appearance and Tree Board have discussed an addition to the town’s tree ordinance that would prohibit clear-cutting of property in the town, even for forestry activity.
A state law passed in 2005 prohibits municipalities from interfering with forestry activities such as farming trees and then cutting them to sell for lumber or pulp. But in 2006, the General Assembly passed a bill that allowed Matthews to control such actions. Town manager Hazen Blodgett said town officials had become concerned about the dwindling tree canopy in their town and wanted to establish community standards to protect those trees, so they lobbied for the special legislation. The bill didn’t apply to any other municipality.
After several areas of Matthews were recently clear-cut, commissioners began considering an amendment to the tree ordinance to put controls on the practice. But the state may overrule the town. State Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, has proposed a bill that would rescind Matthews’ ability to control clear-cutting in the town. Tucker said the N.C. Forestry Association and the Farm Bureau contacted him recently, asking whether he would introduce a bill to repeal the special Matthews section. He said the request came out of concern that other municipalities would ask the state to apply the same law to their jurisdictions.
Tucker said he thought many of the state representatives who voted for the special law in 2006 didn’t realize what they were voting for. “It was one paragraph buried in a 49-page technical correction bill. I doubt anyone knew that it affected a state law,” Tucker said. He said the proposed bill is in committee, and he has promised Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor he will not push it any further until Taylor and forestry officials have had a chance to work on compromise language. If they reach a compromise, Tucker said, he will allow the bill to die in committee.
Taylor said he spoke with Tucker on Tuesday morning, and he believes a compromise can be worked out. ‘The intent of the town of Matthews is to preserve the tree canopy that we all cherish as citizens of the town without infringing upon the personal property rights of private property owners,” Taylor said. “I’m pleased that Senator Tucker is allowing us to work with the Forestry Association,” Taylor said, “and I am confident that we can come to a compromise that will be satisfactory to all sides.”
Matthews working on compromise tree ordinance
Town of Matthews