Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Wilmington property owner fined thousands and told to plant 25 trees for cutting without permit

The property owner cut down six trees to preemptively prevent them from falling on his property, not realizing he needed a $25 permit. Now, the city is fining him over $3,000 and asking that he plant 25 trees on his property.

The City of Wilmington is fining the owner of the property at 1102 South 3rd Street for cutting down trees without a permit (Port City Daily/Courtesy Google)
The City of Wilmington is fining the owner of the property at 1102 South 3rd Street for cutting down trees without a permit. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Google)

WILMINGTON — What started out as a preemptive attempt to protect his property from the potential of falling trees has turned into a costly lesson for one Wilmington man who, after removing six trees, is being told he must pay thousands of dollars in fines as well as plant 25 new trees on his property.

The former home to Ronnie’s Crab Shack is now owned by Lyle Fisher, who addressed City Council with his concerns during Tuesday’s meeting.

Prior to Hurricane Florence, Fisher, who is trying to rent the building, received a phone call from someone he assumed was a potential renter — it was, in fact, someone from the City of Wilmington zoning department calling to find out what happened to the trees.

“After the conversation got going for about three minutes he kept asking me if I had cut the trees down and I told him that I was trying to avoid a catastrophe because these trees were on a hill leaning over the top of my building. Because of ice storms and hurricanes … I had told him that I was cutting them down so they wouldn’t come down on the property,” Fisher said.

When he finally introduced himself as someone from the city’s zoning department he asked Fisher why he did not get a permit to remove the trees. Fisher responded by saying he was unaware he needed a permit.

After Hurricane Florence hit the region, several trees that remained on the property did come down causing damage to power lines and closing 3rd Street. Fisher has been ordered to pay over $3,000 in fines as well as plant 25 new trees to make up for the few he removed.

“Basically what I am saying is I did not do it trying to hide it, I did it in the middle of the afternoon … the penalty was $3,150, which I have already started to pay … but the 25 trees, I feel like that is overkill. Basically, I am guilty of not knowing I needed to get a $25 permit,” Fisher said to City Council.

Before he cut the trees down Fisher hired a surveyor to make sure he was not doing anything wrong and cutting down trees that did not belong to him — but he was still not aware of the $25 tree-cutting permit.

“I don’t mind paying the $3,150. If you are driving down the road and you miss the traffic sign – I get fined because I missed it. I just feel that it is kind of overkill after Florence destroyed thousands and thousands of trees that I am getting nailed for 25 extra trees on a piece of property that quite frankly can’t handle 25 extra trees,” Fisher said.

Fisher’s property is about 8,600 square feet, with a 1,400 square-foot building and a 6,800 square-foot parking lot; with only 400 square feet of available land to plant 25 trees, Fisher would almost definitely have to tear up the pavement to comply.

City Council did not make any decisions or respond to Fisher except to say he could appeal the decision through the proper channels.

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