An off-and-on plan to have trees harvested from a section of Mount Airy’s Westwood Industrial Park is now off again — and could be that way for good.
A final timbering proposal was scheduled to be voted on Thursday afternoon during a meeting of the city board of commissioners, after more than two years of study and debate.
However, after further concerns emerged Thursday, no action occurred. These concerns included providing an extra buffer for the logging operation to shield its view from North Franklin Road, whether a cleared area should be prepared for a future industrial park tenant, and the extra costs associated with such a move.
The main issue appeared to be how such factors would further reduce profits from the timber sale, for which proceeds already were drastically reduced from earlier projections when the plan was first discussed in 2013.
“Let it ride,” Commissioner Shirley Brinkley said at the end of Thursday’s discussion, summing up the sentiments of other board members that the city government should not proceed with a proposal to offer the trees to the highest bidder.
It was thought early on that the timber sale could reap $300,000 to $400,000 for municipal coffers. But a forestry consultant guiding the city in the process told the commissioners at their last meeting in October that the sale price would be closer to $75,000 for the area involved.
Cleared site sought
The project was targeted for a 63-acre parcel situated at the end of Boggs Drive in Westwood Industrial Park, which also borders North Franklin Road near a city water-storage tank. After the trees would be cut, a 200-foot buffer was to be left along property lines of adjoining homes, while another buffer of at least 100 feet was planned around two streams on the property.
However, the need to provide another 200-foot tree buffer along Franklin Road for aesthetic reasons was suggested Thursday afternoon.
The trees to be lost to the harvest in order to provide the extra buffer along North Franklin Road could be offset by taking more trees from the Boggs Drive side of the boundary area.
“Franklin Road is a very highly traveled area,” the board’s Jon Cawley said of the unsightliness factor.
Also discussed Thursday was a side project that had been discussed at past meetings. That was another goal, besides selling the timber, of providing a much-needed cleared site at the industrial park to house a new company if such a prospect comes along.
Brinkley said the city government’s original intent for buying the park property many years ago was to accommodate businesses, and that somehow this should be accomplished as part of the timbering project.
“I want to know where we’re going with this,” Brinkley added.
She reminded that the board at one time had discussed preparing cleared sites of either 17 acres or 45 acres for a new industry, and it was mentioned Thursday this also could go as low as 10 or 20 acres.
Yet providing the cleared site would require stump removal and grading to the tune of $2,000 per acre, and the board’s proposed action on Thursday also called for reforestation of the logged area at a cost of $100 per acre.
So in doing the math, board members seemed of the collective belief that once the additional expenses are deducted from the estimated sale, the project might not be worth the time, trouble and upheaval it presents.
“I want to make sure we get a profit,” Brinkley said, while also meeting the needs discussed Thursday and respecting the rights of homeowners in the area affected by the logging.
Commissioners Dean Brown and Jim Armbrister questioned the profit and other benefit expectations in view of all that would be involved, including city officials being able to meet their objective of providing a cleared site.
“I would not want to put this out to bid right now,” Steve Yokeley, another commissioner who also serves as mayor pro tem, said in light of the various issues raised Thursday.
Cawley said he was comfortable with that position, but pointed out that the need for an industrial site remains.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.