Fined for Pruning a Tree

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    Zach Watson

    Here is the Article:


    Basically, the Church prunes their trees ever 2-3 years and trim them back a little bit more then maybe they should but then they don’t have to trim as often.  Well the city had a problem with how much they trimmed the trees and received a fine ($100 for ever branch that was cut off and considered excessive pruning, $4000 in total).  Interesting story for the Lounge.

    Jay Ryan Courtney
    Heather Smith

    I am wondering what safety issues they are referring to…if there aren’t safety issues I think this is utterly ridiculous.

    Jay Ryan Courtney

    I find this to be completely ridiculous.  I absolutely abhor the pruning of crape myrtles in this manner, but find no reason people shouldn’t be able to.  First of all, crape myrtles should not should not be governed by a tree ordinance.  If trees are required when property is developed, crape myrtles should not qualify.  Species that make larger contributions towards shading, stormwater interception, biodiversity, etc should be required.  The largest of crape myrtle cultivars rarely reach over 30 ft…and that is under some of the best circumstances.  Though crape murder may violate some people’s aesthetic principles (including my own), I don’t think that topping these “trees” leads to any significant degradation of the urban forest.  And the safety concern is minimal, especially if they are toppped, or pollarded every 2-3 years.  No new limbs will be likely to grow large enough to pose any danger to property or persons.  


    Though I applaud Charlotte for having a tree ordinance and taking it seriously, I think this instance or enforcement is absurd.     

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Topping is a poor practice that can weaken a tree and make it a hazard, but this church has been continually practicing this hard pruning which then keeps them from ever becoming a hazard. If these trees were required as part of a permitting process for shade or screening a parking lot it is a whole other story. If it is simply control freaks wanting to apply their values universally onto the citizens of the community, I think it is totally unacceptable. Also, if the trees are in the road layout rather than properly within the private property lines, I don’t think it is wrong for the city to enforce its own standards.


    “Trees planted as a result of the ordinance are subject to the fines if they are excessively trimmed or pruned. These include trees on commercial property or street trees. They do not include a private residence”  This quote makes me believe that these trees must have been part of a permit requirement in the past. If that is the case, it would clearly be a violation and not an overreach. This makes me think that the reporter is not doing a thorough job explaining the situation. Having been the victim of that a couple of times, I know it is not uncommon.



    Heather Smith

    Yes, I read the article…those things look terrible but do not look like a safety hazard at all. If they keep them that low…well…I don’t see a safety issue. Aesthetically…ugh. haha.

    mark foster

    So……. if the ordinance has been in place since 1978, and the church has been doing this every 3 years–why now?  I agree, the reporter should have given some history of “church vs. city” if there was one.  

    I have also run into some little-known existing laws which are suddenly and vigorously enforced with no warning.  I think it is a good excuse to increase city coffers without raising taxes– smells like “revenue enhancement” to me.  

    On the other hand (at least around here), churches are exempt from many zoning restrictions and get away with a lot.  We live near a church which is 80% YMCA, in an area where a secular version could never have been built.  

    Rob Halpern

    But in this case it is hard to believe that there really is a public safety issue… whatever other issues there may be  It appears as if these Crepe myrtles are so small and have been kept so small that there is no hazard possible here unless someone yanks one up and clubs someone else with it.

    Whether the City Forester felt the need to follow the letter of the law in order to avoid accusations of favoritism or to make a point I can’t guess. But it was not about the risks created by this specific pruning incident

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I think you are right on as far as the safety issue is concerned.

    I can’t help but believe that we are missing a part of the story. My guess is that these trees were a required element in a plan approved sometime between 1978 and now. I know that I have had to stuff certain required trees of a certain size for heat abatement and screening well within the borders of commercial private property and that it is required that they be replaced if they die and …..well, that they don’t get any smaller after planting.

    This is getting a lot of notice in the press and I think we’ll eventually get the story behind the story.


    PS. Anyone catch the name of the senior urban forester?

    Jason T. Radice

    Coming from a region synoymous with Crape Myrtles…and where most of them are bred (US Arboretum outside of DC), there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way the church pruned their trees. The city and their “urban forester” are CLEARY in the wrong. These trees wer not topped, as this is one ACCEPTED practice for the care of these trees, particularly for older varieties. In fact, many are pruned back almost to the trunk EVERY year, and get very large by the end of the growing season. This type of pruning helps keep the plant dense and healthy, as well, this is a method to ensure prolific flowering. You cut back roses every year (at least older varieties), the same holds true for these ornamental trees. If you leave them unpruned, they get sparse and straggley, and do not bloom as long or in the quantities why you plant these trees in the first place. Look at the photos, these suckers are healthy, since these trees are in the loosestrife family and are pretty much weeds. I use them with great sucess on horrid commercial sites with very poor and compacted soils. All they need is adequate water and you get good reliable color blooming all summer.


    The heavy pruning method is falling out of favor however, and is being replaced with a lighter and more natural looking selective pruning which allows for a more aesthetically pleasing form in the winter. This is in part because of new varieties of the tree that are specifically bred for better blooming, eliminating the need for heavy pruning. However, many landscapers and arborists still use the older, more agressive technique for the older varieties and to achieve a certain appearance (large shrub rather than a shade tree).  

    Trace One

    gack. shopping mall crepe myrtles on the ugly church lot..

    1.sounds to me like the process was eminently reasonable – lots of options for the church.

    2. they probably have an approved site plan showing the lagers, that likely were chosen by height and bulk requirement. They are required to know that – new pastor, maybe?

    3. There was  probably a complaint, zoning fines are almost ALWAYS in response to complaints – also, I agree, the article should have indicated if there was any history behind the citation – include in that the status of the pastor, the status of the office from whence the fine came (new boss, old boss, whatever..)..

    4. The comments on the article in the newspaper are the predicatable right-wing horror show – I will KILL them, i have the right to poop in the street if I want to  (paraphrasing..).

    I used to do zoning violations..What a thankless job, especially in the South..I find it encouraging that tree ordinances are still around at all, with the ‘Reign of FOX news” in it’s second decade and ALSO I have to admit to

    5. some small bit of shadenfreude reading about someone else having to suffer in that horrible job..just a small bit though, bitterness is leaking away the further one gets from that type of work..heehee..

    good comments on an interesting, post, tho! enjoyable reading, all sides presented… 

    Heather Smith

    Well…common sense isn’t that common…haha. Really? I am a liberal in red, red Idaho and I think this is ridiculous. haha. I don’t know why we have to pull politics into this…I can’t imagine the liberal city I live in coming after people for the way they trim these particular trees. There either is a back story or it is like Mark suggested…revenue. How is this reasonable at all? Of all the real problems this city probably has to deal with…these crepe myrtles are not it.

    And i really think you can’t compare pooping in the street to what this church is doing. At least they are trying and there is no way you can tell me that those trees are a public danger. haha.


    lool!! 😀

    Tin-Tin Azure

    I think I am with above, LOL is all I can think of to say about this.

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