Fort Payne holds Public Meeting on Logging Ordinance (VIDEO)
January 18, 2017 Share

Fort Payne holds Public Meeting on Logging Ordinance (VIDEO)

PHOTO: A timber yard on Highway 11 between Fort Payne and Collinsville, overlooked by a bare spot on Lookout Mountain. The brow land is owned by Steve Stevens, who has followed ‘best management practices’ and replanted the land in trees. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch) 

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor 

tyler@southerntorch.com

FORT PAYNE, Ala. — On Tuesday, January 17, the Fort Payne City Council held it’s public meeting to gather input from the public on drafting an ordinance on logging. The council elected to hold the meeting at 6 pm to allow for more public involvement, and more public involvement is what they got; with a total headcount of 55 citizens filling the council chambers.

While previous measures had been attempted by the city to curtail logging on the slopes of the mountains, this recent process began earlier this year, with the city placing a moratorium on all logging within the city limits. Back in September, the council voted to extend the moratorium until a reasonable measure could be agreed upon.

In mid-December, the council voted to lift the ban to allow conditional logging within the city limits. While some landowners were free to have timber cut, it only allowed logging on slopes of 15% or less, which excluded most of the land on the sides of Lookout and Sand Mountains.

Watch the Full Meeting:

 

The legal pad that citizen’s signed up to speak at the public meeting on the logging ordinance. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

Last night, the city sought the opinions of the citizens in drafting the final ordinance, which will regulate the  timber industry within the city limits. The council placed a legal pad on the podium for citizens to put their names down to address the council and mayor. The meeting was opened by a prayer by former councilman Walter Watson.

“I have no doubt that this issue will be resolved in a peaceful manner; I have no doubt that this situation will be resolved in a manner that will reflect your blessings on the City of Fort Payne. Tonight we pray Lord that everyone that has a concern, will bring forth and the council will have the wisdom to be able to make it work,” Watson said earnestly in the opening prayer.

Citizens Trisha Collier, Charles Cychowski, Greg Morris, Randall Ham, Tim Holt, Steve Stevens, David Ball, Rodney Driskell, Bill Jacoway, Joel Moon, Thomas Wallace, Freddy Glover, and Jimmy Hester addressed the council and crowd. The council and mayor interacted with the concerned public at various times in the remarks.

Speakers from the public were made up of citizens who are concerned about the effect of the logging on the aesthetics of the town, landowners who were concerned about their property, and members of the local timber industry, whose livelihood could depend on the council’s decision.

Steve Stevens, a landowner on Dogtown Road, on the brow of the mountain, addressed the proposed ban on clearcutting, which means taking all the timber instead of just cutting select trees. Stevens addressed the effects of the total ban of clearcutting.

Brow Landowner Steve Stevens addressed the council over concerns regarding clear-cutting. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

“We de-stumped the slope and we replanted it in pine trees,” Stevens said. “From what I understand, ya’ll are trying to completely do away with clearcutting?”

“It’s been discussed to limit timber cutting on the side of the mountain and slopes of a certain percentage,” Councilman Wade Hill replied.

“There will come a time when the pine trees have to be cut and replanted. It has to be reharvested completely. And if you want to plant a pine forest, you have to completely harvest the hard woods,” Stevens explained.

“We want to hear everyone’s opinion. We can look up stuff on Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado, but this is Fort Payne Alabama,” Councilman Hill explained to Stevens.

David Ball, a long time forester in the area, addressed the council on the restrictive slope limitations that are currently in place. 

“We’ve got roads going up hills that are greater than a 15 percent slope,” Ball said. “15 percent is just the wrong number.

“The moratorium covered the 15 percent, that covered a large portion of land in Fort Payne,” Ball said. “We need to look at this as a group and figure out what we really want. Are we talking about just the side of the mountain, or are we talking about a ridge that someone has planted in pines that’s ready to harvest? Are we going to tell them their timber is worthless?”

“Some of the most valuable timber in Fort Payne is on the side of the mountain,” said Ball.  

Councilwoman Lynn Brewer then asked of Mr. Ball, “Would the best management practices allow clear cutting on the side of the mountain?”
“Yes, it’s possible. Most people would not clear cut the side of the mountain. They would select cut. You would have a certain diameter tree, which is up to the land the landowner, that would be cut and leave the smaller trees,” Ball replied.

Thomas Wallace, a citizen of Fort Payne, was one that voiced his opinion that he felt like logging near his home was, “damaging to his property.”

“In the city I can’t go out and build a chicken house without a permit, so you should have to do something for something like this (logging),” Wallace explained.

“I’m not for anybody getting hurt, or hurting anybody, but I don’t want to be hurt either,” Wallace said.

With this input, the City of Fort Payne will now draft an ordinance pertaining to logging on the sides of the mountain. Before the measure becomes law, the public will have another chance to provide input on the draft ordinance, City Attorney Rocky Watson explained.

“We’ll have one more meeting like this once we have something drafted and after everyone has a chance to look at,” said Attorney Watson.

“You will have an opportunity to take a look at,” added Watson.

“We’ll give everyone an opportunity for final comment before it’s passed,” Councilman Hill said.

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