Asheville rules regulate tree pruning and removal

Ready to get out those pruners or a chain saw for some spring yard cleanup? Not so fast.


If you operate a business or live in a steep slope area or an historic district, the City of Asheville has special rules for tree pruning and removal. First of all, you will need a permit. (Find information on how to apply for a permit further down in this article.) 


This applies to homeowners in our higher elevations, 2,350 above sea level. That includes the Town Mountain, Beaucatcher Mountain areas as well as most of Beaverdam and even Overlook Road in south Asheville. The rules apply to properties along the eastern Sweeten Creek area, such as around Given Estates too. Find out if you live in a steep slope at this link.


The rules also apply to businesses in all areas such as commercial business, shopping centers, office parks and industrial sites. They are required to have landscaping such as street trees, buffer yards and parking lot landscaping, said Ricky Hurley, Plan Review Coordinator-Zoning for the City’s Development Services Department.


“And while other areas would not necessarily be regulated, the City would still urge residents to use sound landscape practices, discourage tree topping, things of that nature,” he added.


Why does this matter? It’s all about slope stability.


“Tree removal can destabilize a slope, increase runoff and may lead to a potential landslide, if you have one or multiple trees removed,” said Hurley. “I can also promote channelization of water which can lead to erosion or slope failure.”


And it’s the law, covered under City code: UDO Sec. 7-11-3(f) “Compliance & Maintenance” for required landscaping.


By all means, the City wants homeowners to be able to manage their trees and shrubs with proper and appropriate pruning techniques needed to maintain the landscape.


The regulations in a nutshell

Commercial development

For commercial uses, at a minimum, a Zoning Expedite permit is required for tree removal in ALL commercial projects (shopping centers, office parks, churches, apartment complexes, and restaurants) regardless of location upon the property and the zoning classification.


Single Family-NOT Steep Slope

Tree removal is NOT regulated or required permitting for single or two family developments outside of Historic Districts or properties lying below the 2,220 foot elevation contour (Steep Slope Zones).


Historic Districts

Tree removal in Historic Districts must apply for a Minor Work Certificate of Appropriateness separately from other zoning requirements and processes regardless of use or zoning district.


Steep Slope (Zone A)

Tree removal for properties lying between the 2,220 foot and 2,349 foot elevation contours, otherwise defined as Steep Slope Zone A in UDO Section 7-12-4 does NOT require a permit.  Grading of these areas for removal of the root ball, gardening, or ornamental landscaping is still subject to limits prescribed within UDO Section 7-12-4.


Steep Slope (Zone B)

Tree Removal and pruning IS regulated for all properties located with Steep Slope Zone B, which is defined as all properties located at or above the 2,350 foot elevation contour with an average natural slope of 15% or greater.


Please visit the Permit Center in the Public Works Building,161 S. Charlotte St. All requests must include a site plan showing location of tree, pictures of tree, explanation for removal, location, number, and type of tree proposed for removal.


If you see a violation

What’s the number to call to report illegal tree pruning/topping? Call 828-259-5450.

What kind of fines does the City level following Notice of Violation? Unpermitted tree removal of required trees results in an immediate fine based on the diameter size of the tree removed. Property owners can also be made to replace trees.

For more information, call the Development Services Department at 828-259-5846.


Tree-planting workshop

Asheville GreenWorks will hold a free tree-planting workshop from 2 to 4 p.m. April 22 at 14 Riverside Drive. Learn the proper planting depth and other techniques to help your trees thrive! Find information about this and other tree workshops here.


What NOT to do

The following images are real-life tree pruning violations found recently in the City of Asheville.