The city of Charlotte, N.C., is levying fines on a local church after it says one landscaping parishioner "improperly" pruned the crape myrtle trees of Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church.
The Charlotte Observer has the details (emphasis mine):
"We always keep our trees trimmed back because you don't want to worry about them hanging down in the way," said [Eddie] Sales, a church member.
The church was fined $100 per branch cut for excessive pruning, bringing the violation to $4,000.
"I just couldn't believe it when I heard about it," Sales said. "We trim our trees back every three years all over our property, and this is the first time we have been fined."
The fine will be dropped if the church replaces each of the improperly pruned trees, said Tom Johnson, senior urban forester for city of Charlotte Land Development Division. "When they are nonrepairable, when they have been pruned beyond repair, we will ask them to be replaced," Johnson said. "We do that for a number of reasons but mainly because they are going to come back unhealthy and create a dangerous situation down the road."
According to the Observer, the city of Charlotte passed a tree ordinance in 1978 deeming trees that are incorrectly pruned or topped are subject to fines. As a result, any landscaping deemed "excessive" on these trees is subject to the regulation, including trees on commercial property.
"The purpose of the tree ordinance is to protect trees," Johnson says. "Charlotte has always been known as the city of trees. When we take down trees, we need to replace these trees."
So how can Charlotte businesses (and churches) avoid such fines? The Observer reports that individuals who would like to trim their trees should call the city foresters for a free permit to conduct the landscape work. Additionally, the state Division of Forestry recommends tree-trimmers be certified by the National Horticultural Board.
The situation is different for trees located on private property, although the city may still fine individuals for improper pruning and rates vary from $75 per to tree to $100 per branch.
As for the Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church, its recently trimmed trees found in violation must be replaced with all new trees by October at an unknown cost to the church. Otherwise, the church will be forced to pay $4,000 in fines to the city of Charlotte.
"We trimmed back these trees in the interest of the church," Sales said. "If we were in violation, we certainly did not know we were."