Some concerned over tree removal in Daphne

DAPHNE, Ala. (WALA) – If you want to make landscaping changes along U.S. Highway 98 in Daphne, especially if they involve tree removal, you better make sure you know the law.

“You can’t just remove the tree because you don’t like the way it looks or because it blocks something. You have to justify the removal of that tree and explain what’s being done because some of these trees are 40, 50 years old or even older,” Councilman John Lake said.

A proposal submitted to Daphne officials could potentially do just that. According to the plan, the owner of the property at the corner of 98 and Randall Avenue would remove 23 trees, including four oaks. This proposal said the trees would be replaced with CMU stucco walls and flower beds.

According to Lake, the plan to remove the oaks goes against city law.

“We need to pay attention to what we wrote the ordinance for, which was to protect the trees along the highway to make sure that the aesthetics and the beauty that people enjoy living in Daphne for are protected,” Lake said.

According to that ordinance, “all lands within 100 feet of the right-of-way of the four-lane U.S. Highway 98…are hereby declared to be tree protection zones.

The law goes on to say that protected trees, such as live oaks, cannot be removed unless they meet the following criteria: they provide a safety hazard to the public, they’ve become diseased or damaged, it’s absolutely necessary to avoid significant additional construction costs or they’re blocking solar energy equipment.

But not all the oaks on the property are in danger of being uprooted. One of the live oaks in the center will be preserved as part of the proposed future landscaping. Also, the three along Highway 98 will remain as well.

Fox10 News reached out to the property owner as well as the mayor’s office for comment on this story. The owner didn’t return our call and the mayor was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

Some residents think that the trees, formally protected or not, should stay where they are.

“I really don’t think taking away these old growth oak trees and getting rid of them is going to help bring more business or bring customers to these businesses right around here. If anything, they want to see this old growth around here and just kind of show that Daphne’s an old, quaint, little town,” resident Matthew Whaley said.

Ultimately it’ll be up to the city to decide whether or not these trees will stay or go. Approval of the plan was tabled at the last city council meeting until it can be presented to the beautification committee for evaluation.

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