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City Makes First Land Purchase From Tree Mitigation Fund

Flickr/Erik Cleves Kristensen

 For the last two years, as part of its ordinance, the city of Charlotte has given some developers the option of saving a portion of the trees on their property or to pay. The fund they pay into now has more than half-a-million dollars. And the city just made its first land purchase using some of that money.

Charlotte loves its trees, they shade forty-six percent of the city. That's about 180,000 trees. City council wants to increase that to 50 percent by 2050.

So if you're a developer setting your eyes on chopping some trees, watch out.

Kidane Haile is opening a Fast Mart in Matthews. The land he's developing was a residential property with one tree on it.

There was no option to save the tree because it was on the sidewalk. So in June, he paid $1,733 into the city's tree ordinance mitigation fund. 

"They told us to put four trees on the small side," Haile says. "So they charged me, I put four trees, plus they charged me $1,700. I think that's too much."

Charlotte has a pretty comprehensive tree ordinance. All developers are required to plant trees.

But you're also required to save at least 15 percent of the trees on the property you're developing.

Sometimes though, that's not possible. David Weekly, manager of the city's land development division, says some developments are in high density areas or near transit stations or industrial zones where it's difficult to build and save the trees.

"So rather than the developer saving 15 percent of his land that's being developed for tree preservation, [they can pay] into a fund that the city would manage specifically for tree preservation," Weekly says. 

The fund was added to the ordinance two years ago and so far 27 developers have paid into it. 

The city uses the money for land conservation and to preserve trees in other parts of Charlotte. Earlier this week, the money was used by the city to purchase 15 acres of land along the McAlpine Creek Greenway for $99,000.

This purchase will help expand the Carolina Thread Trail network, which connects greenways and trails in North and South Carolina.