Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Commissioner responds to oak tree threat: ‘We should strive to be more like Charleston … less like Myrtle Beach’

Planning Director Wayne Clark has assured residents he, along with staff, is working with the company to reduce the number of trees removed from the site and that no tree-removal permits have been issued yet.

New Hanover County has responded to public outcry over possible razing of the Ogden Oak trees (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
New Hanover County has responded to public outcry over possible razing of the Ogden Oak trees. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

Update Wednesday 7 p.m. – New Hanover County Planning Director Wayne Clark issued the following statement:

“After conversations with the developer, they shared an updated conceptual drawing with us today that would eliminate the request to remove any oak trees from the site. It would potentially relocate one small oak tree on the site, but all other oak trees would remain. This new proposal will go to the Zoning Board of Adjustment in September before moving forward.

OGDEN — All is not yet lost for the several-hundred-year-old oaks located in Ogden at the site of Islands Fresh Mex Grill, despite plans for a new car wash that would call for the razing of the ancient trees.

What started with a Facebook post by resident and preservationist Michael Werner was shared hundreds of times and has turned into a rallying cry to help save the trees on the site, and preserve historic oaks across New Hanover County.

Werner shared plans for the new car wash on his social media post and even spoke during Monday’s County Commissioner meeting asking commissioners to do something to stop the destruction of the trees.

In the post, he listed county commissioners’ emails and phone numbers and encouraged residents to reach out and ask their elected officials to do something to save the trees.

It worked.

On Tuesday evening, Planning Director Wayne Clark issued a formal statement on the issue — and assured residents that no tree removal permits have been issued yet.

“My staff and I will be meeting with the development team for the property at 7032 Market Street this week to discuss modifications to their site plan in order to reduce the number of trees that would be removed. The development team has been receptive to this conversation. The county has not issued a tree removal permit for the site, so the developer is not authorized to remove any trees at this time,” he said.

According to New Hanover County Jessica Loeper, the statement was issued after county leaders and planning received “a lot of emails” opposing the removal of the trees.

County Commissioner Woody White took to Twitter to show his support for saving live oaks throughout the county — not just the ones located at the Islands site.

“In light of the Live Oak tree issue on Market Street, I have asked the county manager and planning director to put the tree ordinance on our Sept. 3 agenda. We should do whatever necessary to protect ALL Live Oak trees in our County. No exceptions. We should strive to be more like Charleston, Savannah, and Hilton Head and less like Myrtle Beach,” White wrote.

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