SUNSET BEACH, NC (WECT) – A controversy is brewing in Sunset Beach, and it's all because of trees. Town council recently decided to cut down 15 trees near the new Sunset Beach Park – an idea that hasn't grown on some people just yet.
For many people, the live oak trees at Sunset Beach Park were more than just trees; they had sentimental value because of their age.
Now, the trees are gone, and some people are more upset about the process that council went through when deciding to cut the trees. Jan Harris and Katie Hovermale have each owned property on Sunset Beach for years. Right now, they're not very happy with town leaders.
"The trees are what make this property," said Hovermale. "To see the trees taken away is a travesty."
"I will never live to see the day and my grandson will never live to see a live oak like that again," said Harris.
A representative from town council says only diseased or structurally defective trees that arborists advised should be removed were removed. Council also said none of the trees were removed in order to accommodate the park design; rather, the design was created to accommodate the trees.
Mayor Pro-Tem, Lou Devita issued the following statement:
"The town council recognizes the concern over the trees in the park site and that is why we sought the advice of two independent arborists and an agent of the Brunswick County Agriculture Extension," said Devita. "We emphasized our goal was to save as many trees as possible. We reviewed their independent recommendations and I should point out that all three recommended removal of the same trees. Our attorney advised council that knowledge of the diseased and structurally defectives trees increased the town's liability should anyone be harmed by one of the diseased trees."
Council actually discussed the issue multiple times starting back in June. Town leaders finally voted to remove the trees at a recent public meeting, but some say they felt left out.
"Any of the people who knew about the process didn't take the time and effort to do more about it," said Hovermale. "Maybe we could have saved the trees."
Now, some say they just hope this will be an eye opening experience for everyone involved.
"The trees are gone," said Hovermale. "But we can use this as a lesson for communication and compromise on other issues."
Town council said they understand that not all citizens attend council meeting, nor do they read the minutes posted on the town web site. But they said they simply have no other mechanisms through which they can expand their communication with residents.
The wood cut from the trees will be donated to the less fortunate to use as a source of heat inside their homes.
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