VIDEO: Fort Payne passes finalized logging ordinance
March 22, 2017 Share

VIDEO: Fort Payne passes finalized logging ordinance

PHOTO: Members of the Fort Payne City Council prepare to hear final comments from the public before voting on the Logging Ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor

tyler@southerntorch.com

FORT PAYNE, Ala. — After allowing additional comments from the public, The Fort Payne City Council passed the finalized logging ordinance this week.

The final comments regarded the costs of the forester, which inspects a timber operation on behalf of the city to ensure compliance with the new ordinance, and the penalties for violating the ordinance.

Watch the Full Video (Story Continues Below):

“So, you’re going to charge the logger for the forester to come out?” Barbara Hester asked the council.

Councilman Wade Hill explained that while the costs of the inspection wouldn’t be on the city, “we’ve hoped to eliminate the need for some of the visits. If the forester comes out in the pre-planning and determines that forty or so trees will be damaged as a result of the logging operation, now you won’t be penalized for that.”

Hill also explained that the city is currently trying to find out if a state forester can do the inspections, which would be free of charge, that is if the state agrees to do so.

Logger Jimmy Hester also asked the council about how a logger would go about cutting a tree if two smaller trees, for example, are located immediately down the slope from the larger tree, as the machinery would destroy the two smaller trees.

Hill and City Attorney Rocky Watson explained that if the timber is inspected, the trees can now be accounted for under the predetermined logging plan, and the loggers will be protected from penalty.

Jimmy and Barbara Hester also expressed concern over the maximum penalty of 6 months in jail for violating the new ordinance. As the council and city attorney explained, in order to prevent irresponsible logging on the mountainside, the penalties will have to be harsh, but the penalties would only be imposed if a logger, “flagrantly violates the ordinance.”

“He (the judge) isn’t going to put you in jail if you accidently cut an eleven and a half inch tree, he’s probably not even going to fine you,” explained Watson. “But if someone get’s over here and rapes the side of the mountain, it’s got to have some teeth to it, so he won’t do that.”

“We’ve got to be able to enforce it,” added Councilwoman Lynn Brewer.

The council and city attorney also explained their motivations for drafting the ordinance, and allowing landowners, citizens, and loggers to all provide input in the process.

“This is about environmental protection, it’s about protecting our city from runoff, and still allowing landowners to have their timber cut,” explained Hill.

“We got to protect the ones that want their timber logged, and the ones that live in these areas that are affected by it,” said Council President Brian Baine.

“We’ve got to reach a happy median,” added Councilman Red Taylor.

“They are truly to be complemented,” said City Attorney Watson of the council’s process of drafting the ordinance.

“They have made a great effort to balance the environmental impact of cutting timber primarily on the slope, and balance the rights of the timber owner,” explained Watson.

It’s important to note that most municipalities pass ordinances without much opportunity for input from both sides of an argument, if any input is allowed at all. Alabama law only requires very little of elected government in terms of notifying the public of potential regulations and allowing the public to provide input. The City of Fort Payne has held meetings on several occasions for the public to address the council and made many edits to the ordinance in an effort to maintain transparency and draft a bill that seeks to ensure the rights of all parties involved.

“None of us sitting up here are loggers, and that’s why we’ve had these meetings, is to get input from the loggers (and) the community, to put together the best possible ordinance to protect both the loggers and the citizens,” said Councilman Brian Baine.

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