Town To Hold Developer Accountable for Clear-Cutting Trees – $1M Fine
Recently, Mecklenburg County and town staff were alerted to a potential violation of the approved construction documents for West Branch. After investigating, Lennar has violated the approved master plan as well as the new tree ordinance. As a result, they are subject to civil penalties associated with the trees that were removed illegally. In addition, they will be required to submit a tree mitigation (re-planting) plan to be approved by the town. Finally, the town has put a stop work order on the 10 lots that were cleared. In addition, the town will put a hold on building permits for the final 19 lots in the development until Lennar responds appropriately to reconcile the situation.
This clear cutting represents a violation of both the approved Master Plan and the Preliminary Plat which stipulate that the Lots 1-10 are to be cleared “selectively” in an effort to preserve as many trees as possible. After consultation with the Town Arborist and Town Attorney and on-site analysis of the violation, the town has issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) and elected to pursue civil penalties for the total number of trees lost by this blatant and negligent clear cutting.
Therefore, the town has determined to issue a Notice Of Violation consisting of a $1,050,600.00 fine per Davidson Planning Ordinance (DPO) Section 15.3.1.C.B.2. This fine represents the penalties for the total loss of one hundred and three (103) trees measured at 12” diameter or more. Additionally, in order to comply with the terms of the NOV, Lennar must provide landscape documents identifying tree replacement planting in available areas in close proximity to lots 1-10, and within the WestBranch development. These replacement plantings shall consist of large maturing replacement trees as required by DPO Section 15.3.1.B.B.2.iii., totaling no less than twelve (12) trees of at least 5” caliper, and ninety-one (91) trees of at least 2.5” caliper. The replacement plan must be reviewed and approved by the Planning Director and Town Arborist. For additional information on the Westbranch development, please see the project webpage.