East Charlotte Residents Call On Elected Leaders To Do More To Protect The City’s Tree Canopy

CHARLOTTE, NC – Some people in  East Charlotte are bringing attention to what they say is a needed change in city policy in order to protect the area’s tree canopy.

A clear cut construction site is now behind Karina Vazquez’s home near Central and Eastway Drive in East Charlotte.

“One day I just walk out of the house and it was like nothing. And I just felt, naked,” said Vazquez.

About a month ago, just beyond her backyard,  was filled with decades old trees. The trees were a main reason she chose to live in the area.

“It’s one of the things that I really admire about Charlotte and one of the things that makes me want to stay here,” said Vazquez.

A medical building will soon fill one of the last remaining undeveloped plots along Eastway drive.

“It’s frustrating. It’s gut wrenching because I feel like we are absolutely powerless,” said Kamala Hughes.

Hughes lives across the street. She says the developer is following all the rules and guidelines, which highlights what she says is a problem with the process. There are not enough trees being saved during development.

“Give them some awareness of what goes on so when it’s happening in your neighborhood,” said Hughes.

According to a University of Vermont study in partnership with TreesCharlotte, the city’s tree canopy has actually decreased from 49% to 45% since 2012. The study also says the city is losing three football fields of trees every day..

“It is a concern it is a consideration, but it could be more top of mind,” said council member Matt Newton.

Newton represents East Charlotte. He says right now, developers only need to save 15% of the trees from a project site.

“We are told the percentage is enough to maintain our existing tree canopy and even work towards our aspirational goal, but I think that is subject to debate,” said Newton.

Developers are also able to pay a fee to opt out of tree save requirements as long as they pay to plant new trees in other parts of the city.

“To concentrate canopy in just certain areas and exclude it from others I think really does a disservice for many of the residents of the city,” said Newton.

Newton says the comprehensive 2040 plan should address the tree canopy concerns, but it’s application is yet to be seen.