Saving trees in the face of all the housing development and road construction occurring in Hampton Roads is dear to many of your hearts.
Several readers have commented in response to a recent column about how builder Chris Ettel is protecting some live oaks and other big trees at the North End in Virginia Beach.
One of them was from Virginia Beach resident Beau Walker.
“I stopped by to take a look.” Walker said. “Very good. I wish other developers would follow suit.”
Walker was thinking specifically about live oaks that have been removed on another street in his North End neighborhood.
“The house has been razed and several beautiful live oaks on the lot already have been taken out,” Walker wrote. “I fear those remaining on the property soon will disappear also.
The sadness is not only that more trees may go down, but that there is nothing residents or the city can do to protect live oaks or any other tree for that matter, said Clay Bernick, the executive director of the Friends of Live Oaks.
Localities are bound by Virginia law, which does not give local governments the freedom to enact tree preservation ordinances. The exceptions are the state’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act that governs the preservation of trees in buffer areas. In addition, a section of the Virginia code allows protection in some cases of significant historic trees, Bernick said.
Bernick, who is retired from the Virginia Beach Planning Department, recently formed a small company, Clay Bernick Environment & Sustainability, to work with public and nonprofit clients.
Whether other trees on private property are protected or not is up to property owners, like Ettel, whose company is VB Homes.
Some Northern Virginia localities have an exception from the state and can protect trees to help meet air-quality goals. It’s not unrealistic to think that Virginia Beach and other Hampton Roads cities might request an exemption from the state to enact tree preservation laws to protect water quality and help with flood resilience.
Live oaks, the iconic trees of Hampton Roads, and other large native trees are important because their roots help cleanse rainwater runoff, and trees also can absorb excess water to help alleviate flooding.
But without an exemption from the state, about the only tool tree lovers here have to preserve one of nature’s bulwarks against flooding and pollution is the power of persuasion.
For example, Bernick said studies prove that property values of new construction are higher when trees have been preserved. It also has been shown that properties with trees tend to sell or rent faster and for higher prices.
The Friends of Live Oaks recently has come up with another persuasive tool, Bernick said. The group plans to recognize builders, developers and homeowners for “going the extra mile to protect live oaks and other trees.”
Recipients will receive a letter of appreciation and a certificate of recognition. Nominations can be made by the general public on the “Contact” section of the Friends website: www.friendsofliveoaks.org.
Bernick said the first recipients will be announced at the Friends of Live Oaks meeting at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Ocean Park Volunteer Rescue Squad building at Shore Drive and East Stratford Road in Virginia Beach. The results also will be posted on the Friends website.
Article Written by Mary Reid Barrow