WILMINGTON — More than one year ago a request was made to the City of Wilmington by Guy Williamson, a real estate manager for Fairway Outdoor Advertising that would permit the removal of trees on public and private property that block the views of billboards — after several continuations, the item will be voted on at City Council’s next meeting.
But there is a catch, the applicant of the request is asking for the item to be withdrawn from council’s agenda, however, since a public hearing and date have already been set, the item will remain.
“This amendment was continued twice by Council at the applicant’s request with the latest action continued to the September 18, 2018 City Council meeting, which was cancelled, with all items moved to October 2, 2018. However, the applicant has now requested to withdraw the item altogether. Nonetheless, because the item was continued to a date certain Council meeting, it is on the agenda for formal action on the applicant’s
request for withdrawal,” according to City Manager Sterling Cheatham.
The request did not receive favor from the city’s Planning Commission, in April of 2017 the commission voted 6-0 against the approval of the request. Current city code prohibits the trimming or removal of trees in order to make outdoor advertising more visible, the request would have changed that.
But the request would not necessarily impact many locations in Wilmington where billboards currently exist since in 2011 the General Assembly made the trimming of trees in state right-of-ways permissible.
“In 2011, the General Assembly passed legislation to allow cutting, thinning, pruning or removal of vegetation on or in any rights-of-way of the state highway system, when necessary to provide unobstructed viewsheds of outdoor advertising signs. Currently, 59 of the 60 outdoor advertising signs located within the city are located on a state highway and subject to the provisions of G.S. 136.133.1,” Cheatham said in his summary of the request submitted to council.
Although it is likely City Council will allow the withdrawal of the item, Cheatham said city staff is recommending the denial of the request (if it is not withdrawn completely).
“If approved, the amendment would allow the removal of trees on private property, with property owner approval, and on City maintained ROW’s if necessary to allow for an unobstructed view shed of outdoor advertising signs. Allowing the removal of trees on private property without consideration of landscaping requirements could cause that property to be in violation of the landscaping ordinance,” Cheatham concluded.
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