Friday, February 17, 2012

Natural Scenic Beauty?

North Carolina has long been known as a place of natural scenic beauty.  It's one of the main reasons this is the sixth most visited state in the US.

However, a new law passed by the general assembly could change all that.

New rules allow for clear cutting trees in a 340 foot zone around billboards in cities and in a 380 foot zone in rural area.  These supersede ordinances passed by individual communities such as Durham, which has very strict rules in place.  As it currently stands, outdoor advertising companies will be able to cut down trees starting in March, without any replanting requirements or recompense for the lost trees.

Scenic North Carolina, a state-wide nonprofit, has passed a resolution asking Governor Purdue to halt this before the irreparable loss of  $12 million worth of publicly-owned trees.

(DCVB's President & CEO serves as Secretary-Treasurer of Scenic North Carolina.)

Municipalities such as Durham and Charlotte are weighing in on this, as is the Sierra Club, and the NC Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, of which Durham Mayor Bill Bell is chairman.

So what does this mean specifically for Durham, a community that values appearance and a sense of place? Here are some photos and examples prepared by the NC Department of Transportation.  

The first shows a view of the Durham Freeway with its current bank of trees shielding an industrial plant.  To the left is a section of mature Leland Cypress trees planted as a screen to protect the view shed.

The photo below shows a 400 foot cutting zone, which was originally proposed, but then reduced to 340' or 380' depending on the location.  This particular billboard is a dual facing billboard, meaning the cut zone is 680'; 340' in each direction.

So right here in Durham, on 147, we are likely to have the length of more than two football fields clear cut of all these trees along the public's right of way, with no replanting and no compensation given to the public.  In return we get to have a very complete view of a billboard (lower left hand corner of the image below)  and the backside of...well see for yourself.

Satellite view of 147 from Google Maps


  1. Leave the trees as they are! One of the reasons I loved this area and decided to move here from Delaware 12 years ago was because of the abundance of trees, rolling hills, etc. So many new residential and commercial construction has happened in the last 12 years and has destroyed a lot of the natural beauty of Durham. I'm all for growth but officials should be wary of destroying too many trees!!!

  2. What is the name of the legislation and who were the sponsors? I want to know who voted for it too.

  3. I did my own research; it's SB 183, "Selective Vegetation Removal/State Highways." (

    Sponsor of the Bill, Senator Harry Brown (6th District: Jones, Onslow counties) - and a car dealership owner. It figures. Self ones' self before the needs of others.

  4. Thanks for your concern. As President of Scenic North Carolina we are currently moving forward with a legal challenge. There will be a component in the very near future that requires grassroot efforts and voices. If you wish to receive alerts on how to help fight this, send an email to