Monday, December 11, 2023

Update: CFPUA razes trees without permits, no word on possible consequences from City of Wilmington

CFPUA has cleared a large area of land despite not having permits to cut the trees (Port City Daily/Ben Schactaman)
CFPUA has cleared a large area of land despite not having permits to cut the trees (Port City Daily/Ben Schactaman)

Update 5 p.m. — CFPUA released the following statement on the tree cutting incident on Wednesday afternoon. 

On Monday morning, CFPUA stopped clearing an easement along River Road after receiving a stop work order from the City of Wilmington. This work was part of the initial phase of a project to install a new 16-inch water main to serve residential and commercial customers in the southern part of New Hanover County.

Since then, CFPUA staff have been talking with our partners at the city and with local residents to address concerns raised over work required in the easement.

Several months ago, CFPUA purchased a 30-foot easement along River Road to install the water main in a parcel of undeveloped land. This would allow CFPUA to install the main without digging up local, neighborhood roads and causing traffic concerns. 

This area is part of our southern groundwater system, supplied by a series of wells, known as the Monterey Heights system. The water main will allow CFPUA to support the growth this area has experienced and ensure steady water supply into the future.

CFPUA ordinance requires that, once we purchase an easement and complete necessary work, we must maintain easement landscaping to ensure we can perform necessary maintenance on our infrastructure. We cannot keep trees in CFPUA easements, because they could leave critical infrastructure in those easements vulnerable to damage, including water main breaks and sanitary sewer overflows. 

CFPUA takes the concerns of the city and local residents seriously, and we will continue to work to ensure our work abides by applicable ordinances and protects our community’s water system.

WILMINGTON — The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is just the latest organization to find themselves at odds with the City of Wilmington’s code enforcement for cutting down trees without a permit.

According to CFPUA spokesman Vaughn Hagerty, “This occurred in an easement we own while work was underway to install a water main. My understanding is that no trees outside of the easement were affected. We’ve stopped work and are working with our partners at the city to ensure we’re meeting any necessary requirements and addressing their concerns.”

Despite being on an easement, CFPUA is still required by city regulations to get a permit to cut trees which were formerly located at Lorraine Drive, off of River Road.

“City ordinance requires a permit for tree removal. That normally is a responsibility of the contractor but apparently did not happen in this case. We’re in discussions with the city and the contractor to determine why it didn’t occur and what needs to happen moving forward to address any gaps,” Hagerty said.

The City of Wilmington has not responded for comment about the situation and whether or not they will assess any fines to the organization.

Related: Wilmington mayor addresses tree fines for developers, says city has mitigated fines for individuals, too

The city has a history of waiving multi-thousand dollar fines for developers who have run afoul of the tree ordinance, but when a private citizen cut down trees to protect his property, the city was quick to fine him.

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