Live Oaks are not alone in lacking legal protection
By Mary Reid Barrow
Why doesn’t Virginia Beach have laws to protect the live oak, our official city tree?
This question comes up at the North End almost every time a live oak is cut down to make way for a new home or condo.
Part of the problem lies in the city’s stormwater regulations. Because of sea level rise, the regulations require that many low-lying properties be filled before starting new construction. No tree can survive if the land is built up around it. The regulations also require drainage improvements on lots that often adversely impact trees.
The other part of the problem lies with the Commonwealth of Virginia. State law says localities have no power to legislate tree protection ordinances on private property. The only exception now is the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act which protects trees generally within 100 feet of the Chesapeake Bay shoreline and its tributaries to protect against erosion and help water quality.
Legislation to grant localities the right to put other restrictions on trees on private property has been pending in the general assembly for two years. But if, and when, the legislation does pass, our city council then would have to pass its own ordinance governing what would be required in Virginia Beach.
If you want to help, stay informed about the legislation in the next session of the Assembly and let your senators and delegates know how you feel. Ask candidates where they stand on this issue, then follow through to make sure City council responds to the legislation if it is approved and enacts an ordinance that will keep our live oaks–and all trees safer.
This article was originally printed in the July 2022 issue of the North Virginia Beach Civic League News