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What’s the latest with Forsyth County’s tree ordinance change?

A new tree ordinance proposed in Forsyth County brought put some spirited opinions on how to deal with the environment versus growth.

At the Forsyth County Board of Commissioner’s meeting on Thursday, the evening’s biggest item focused on a proposed update to the county’s tree ordinance and its potential impact. No action was taken during the meeting and a second public hearing is planned for Thursday, Oct. 3.

Eric Bosman, with Kimley-Horn and Associates, gave a presentation on the proposed update and said members of the community were in favor of preserving tree stand and specimen trees and reducing “the number of trees that are being taken down at any one time,” particularly for residential developments, based on meetings with the public held last year.

Seven recommendations came out of those meetings: refine existing and create new definitions; require tree information as part of zoning concept plans; require pre-submittal assessments or preliminary site visits by the county arborist; increase tree “save areas”; strengthen minimum recompense standards; increased fines and penalties for removal of significant trees; and a recommended update to the county’s conservation subdivision ordinance.

Perhaps the most contentious portion of the proposal would require permits “for the removal of any significant tree” – a landmark, historic, specimen or “rare or unusual species” trees within a major subdivision, a subdivision with seven or more lots.

“There’s not a cost necessarily to this, but we would be asking residential homeowners to apply for a permit so that we could educate them on the best practices of tree preservation and try to attempt to save more trees,” Bosman said.

As the update is written, there is no cost for the permit, though there could be costs for recompense of the trees unless the tree is causing damage, which several commissioners had a problem with.

“I just am afraid that we are creating something that … our goal is to promote more trees and we’re going to create a process that’s going to make people hesitant to plant more trees,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills.

District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent said he had planned his home between two large hickory trees but the trees died during “the grading and trying to stay off them.”

“These big beautiful trees, unless you have enough space to stay off a third past their root line, the stress of the vibration goes up and kills them,” he said.

The ordinance would also increase compensation for the removal of those trees and planting or preservation of 15 overstory trees per acre within common areas in developments.

Trees preserved as part of a required tree buffer and utility easements where trees cannot be planted will not factor in totals.

Less discussed in the meeting was a proposed change to the county’s soil erosion and sedimentation control ordinance. That change is related to mass grading and allows only two grading areas no larger than 20 acres for sites 25 acres and larger.

“What that essentially does is if you have an 80- or 90-acre subdivision, rather than clearing all 80 or 90 acres at one time, you would be limited to two sections of 20 acres at a time that would have to be cleared, stabilized, approved by the department of engineering before you could disturb additional land,” Bosman said.

Both changes can be found at