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Tree Protection Ordinance

The first copy of the tree protection ordinance is now available! Please note this is only in draft form at the moment and is subject to change. The draft ordinance is available here and hereThe town boards will review and revise before going to Council for adoption. Staff will also send a copy to developers for input.

The Town of Oak Island has experienced dramatic change over its short history.

Our objective is simple and clear, the town wishes to have a Tree Protection Ordinance designed to preserve, manage and maintain the valuable resource of our trees in the Oak Island jurisdictional limits. The goal of the proposed Tree Preservation Ordinance is to have it enhance the benefits and sustainable management of Oak Island’s urban trees.

In the recent past, the town has incorporated a substantial amount of land that is located on the mainland side of Brunswick County. The newly annexed area is geographically larger in acreage than the island itself, which is already substantial in size. Most of this land is undeveloped and some portions are environmentally sensitive, making it more important to protect the trees in the soon to be developed mainland tracts. The island portion of the town is projected to approach full build-out of the Island in the next several years, making the need to preserve the oaks and other tree species even more critical.

The town does not have an urban forester but does have an Environmental Advisory Board that conducts public education and outreach as well as working with the Tree City USA officials. An ordinance of this sort would provide a tremendous benefit to the built urban environment of Oak Island.

The town staff is in charge of managing and implementing Tree Preservation Ordinance. All of the issues regarding trees such as: natural area protection, watershed protection, tree protection during development, buffer requirements, and building restrictions are to be administrated by said staff.

The community is supportive of this initiative. The citizenry in the town has already indicated their support of regulation to closely manage growth. According to a recent survey that was conducted over the past several months, with over 1,800 respondents, approximately 26% of the town’s total population; indicated they preferred to see growth managed carefully, tree canopy preservation, and community appearance regulated as their top priorities.

The Tree Preservation Ordinance will be discussed at the regular Planning Board meetings as well as the monthly Environmental Advisory Board meetings. The public will also have an opportunity to submit their comments at the Town Council meeting when the Tree Preservation Ordinance is being reviewed. Oak Island is currently at the beginning phase of updating their Unified Development Ordinance. The timing to incorporate a Tree Protection Ordinance could not be more advantageous. The protection of these trees will benefit all members of the town, from those with large beach front multi-family homes to those from traditionally marginalized communities.A listed of the preferred trees on Oak Island can be found here. A summary of the Tree Protection Ordinance public engagement session can be found here. The power point from that meeting is available here. Finally, a map of the trees of Oak Island that was created using data from a  past tree inventory that was done can be found here.

Here you can view a 12 page presentation on benefits of trees. Also, you can find a pdf of the Athens-Clarke County Community Tree Management ordinance here. This is one of the better ordinances and I know that it is effectively enforced in Athens-Clarke. This as an example of how a community uses their tree ordinance to maintain tree cover.  This particular community has increased its tree canopy from 54% to 63% over the last 10 years and regularly measure the tree canopy as they receive new aerial photography. We hope to learn lessons from this in crafting the new upcoming Oak Island Tree Protection Ordinance.

A detailed analysis of what sort of impact would the cutting of the trees have on the ability of a lot to retain its stormwater on-site can be found here. A revised draft tree species list has just been produced and can be found here. The list builds off the existing tree list and expands upon it. For a comparison of other ordinance’s tree protection regulations compared to Oak Island; click here for an excel copy.