City of Charlotte discusses proposed ordinance that would affect older trees

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte City Council held a special work session on Thursday to talk about rules that could affect what you do with your property.

It’s all part of the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

Any changes made to the Unified Development Ordinance will have a big impact on homeowners, people who want to buy homes, and developers.

The city may add new rules to the 608-page UDO. Earlier this year, the city proposed making it a requirement for homeowners to get a permit to remove a tree larger than 30 inches in diameter -- a tree that’s at least 65 years old -- as long as it’s not dying or in danger of falling down.

City council members debated whether to allow homeowners more leeway than originally planned to focus more on preserving trees on land that will soon be redeveloped.

Critics to that plan questioned if it would be effective since most of the trees being cut down are on privately owned lots.

Naomi Kunz’s front lawn is covered in plants and trees. It’s fair to say she cares about trees, which is why she supports the proposed ordinance. In some cases, homeowners may have to pay a fee or commit to planting a new tree somewhere else.

“I think it would make it harder for some people but that’s preserving it as good as possible,” Kunz said.

Preservation is what’s behind the proposed ordinance. Just about every neighborhood is part of Charlotte’s beautiful tree canopy. The concern is that 65% of the current canopy loss comes from individual lots.

“There are definitely times that homeowners will want to remove large healthy trees,“ said Nathan Morrison, the owner of Arborscapes Inc. “And generally, that’s for possible construction, and remodeling or additions that they put on their homes.”

Arborscapes is a tree service and landscaping company. Morrison said permits could help encourage homeowners to keep healthy trees.

“Charlotte is behind in relation to other cities. Atlanta, as an example of a city close to us,” he said. “They’ve had a tree ordinance, I don’t know, probably 10 years.”

Homeowners in Atlanta are required to get a permit if they want to remove any hardwood tree 6 inches or more in diameter.

We don’t know how long the permitting process will take, or if it will even stick in Charlotte, but Kunz said she understands why some would be willing to go through it.

“They don’t want to have the risk of the tree next to their house,” Kunz said.

And that’s an even bigger concern with severe weather season starting.

Building duplexes and triplexes could become more difficult

Charlotte is also considering a rule that would make it harder to build duplexes and triplexes. That type of housing has to be either 12 feet high or the average height of the adjacent sidewalls -- whatever is higher. But developers say that is challenging and could add more time and money to construction projects. They hope the city increases the sidewall restrictions from 12 to 22 feet.

The city says these rules are about making sure neighborhoods don’t change dramatically.

Short-term rental controversy

Short-term rentals can be a hot-button issue. Over the years, Channel 9 has covered concerns over parties, homicides, scams and neighborhood complaints. Now, the city is trying to do something about it.

Councilmember Dimple Ajmera said the city wants to create regulations for short-term rentals in Charlotte. She said they want to strike a balance that addresses neighbors’ concerns without impacting short-term rental owners.

“There needs to be a balance where we are creating economic opportunities for our residents but, at the same time, addressing the quality of life concerns,” Ajmera said. “That balance is very hard, as you can see.”

It’s more difficult now because the city has to wait to make changes. Last week, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled against the city of Wilmington in a lawsuit over its short-term rental regulations.

Now, the North Carolina General Assembly is set to discuss regulations.

That complicates things for the city of Charlotte -- Ajmera said the city is waiting on additional guidance from the city attorney before making anything official.

The council still needs to vote on the ordinance changes before anything goes into effect.

(WATCH BELOW: Mecklenburg County commissioners discuss corporate rental properties, impacts on housing market)