Nags Head Planning Board votes for proposed text amendments addressing tree removal, preservation regulations

Published 8:28 am Sunday, October 30, 2022

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By Judy Stiles

Nags Head Planning Board Chairwoman Megan Vaughan called the October Planning Board meeting to order at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18. All board members were present.

Nags Head deputy planning and development director Kate Jones introduced proposed text amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) section that addresses tree preservation regulations and circumstances when a tree may be removed. The drafted text amendments are intended to clarify and strengthen the Town of Nags Head’s language relating to tree protection and preservation standards.

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The live oak, the Town of Nags Head’s official tree, is protected. The amended UDO provides property owners with information about flexibility in tree replanting and includes information about the permitted removal of a dead or dying live oak tree, when the death is determined by an arborist or planning staff member. Additionally, the UDO states that a tree identified by staff members as a hazard or a public safety risk may be removed.

Nags Head Planning Board member Meade Gwinn asked if it is possible to consolidate all the tree and vegetation guidelines into one section. While Jones acknowledged there are jurisdictions that have a single section, she explained that the direction of the Town of Nags Head Commissioners was to work with the present document rather than creating a new document. Gwinn expressed that it may be easier for a homeowner to find information if it is in one section. Jones indicated that once the language is approved, it could be formatted with an appendix which may make the section clearer to understand.

Vaughan asked whether topping is only defined as the removal of all limbs or if severe pruning is also considered topping. Jones referred to the section which states that pruning must follow the guidelines of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A300, which are the generally accepted best practices for properly pruning a tree. Jones stated this information could also be included in the appendix.

Nags Head Planning Board member Dave Elder questioned if there is a need to define what tree destruction is or if there is a national standard which defines destruction. Jones indicated the ANSI A300 standards provide a definition of topping, destruction and how to properly prune a tree.

Jones indicated that the planning staff proposed the live oak tree preservation also be included in commercial districts. Site visits are currently done for residential development before the permit will be issued and Jones stated there is a need to also look at trees in commercial development.

Vaughan suggested that community outreach and education be provided to ensure that people understand the benefits of the tree ordinance. Planning staff agreed that outreach and education is important and will be provided.

The Planning Board unanimously voted to accept the text amendments and add an appendix.

Nags Head planning and development director Kelly Wyatt broached the possibility of exploring the revision of the current V-Zone Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance as it relates to requirements for submission of V-Zone certification. Wyatt requested to review requirements which specified engineered drawings for small development jobs. Nags Head Planning Board member Molly Harrison asked about the possibility of someone using this as a way to work around regulations rather than do it correctly. After discussion, there was consensus to support the planning staff looking into the V-Zone certification.



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