I see that I have once again made the front page of the paper, so I decided to respond to give your readers "the rest of the story."
It would appear from the most recent article that appeared about me on November 1 that I am being unreasonable by not signing a voluntary easement with the Town of Bladenboro to cut my oak trees so that they can move forward with a water and sewer line project. It would further appear that if I don't soon get my act together and immediately comply with their requests, they are going to "show me who is in charge" by taking court action against me.
Guess what happens if I don't comply with the requests of the town and sign their voluntary easement? The Town has to pay me for my property. Yes, that's right-the Town has to pay me, and they think that upsets me. How? Let's get real here. I have practiced law in this county for 17 years and certainly understand my rights and how the court system works. No amount of pressure to make it appear that I am being unreasonable is going to convince me to change my mind from doing what I believe is right.
What I believe is right is to try to keep the trees, but according to an arborist from N. C. State University, the trees on our Front Street are slowly dying due to cramped roots. Since saving the trees is obviously not important to the Bladenboro Town Board, I thought the next best thing would be to replace the trees by a uniform plan as was originally done as was related to me by former Bladenboro Mayor Charles Hasbrouck. I requested that the Town consult with an expert to try to find a tree that would be better suited to the situation so as not to have this same type of problem in the future.
I would replace the trees in my yard in any event, but without involvement on the Town Board, implementation of a uniform plan will be much more difficult. I resent the implication that my motivation is selfish, when my concern is beautification of our entire street. I believe other Main Street residents share my concerns, but did not realize they had any options regarding a replacement plan or that they were due compensation for the taking of their property if they so desired.
Approximately seven years ago, former Mayor Charles Hasbrouck and I went to the Town of Bladenboro to discuss a Tree Ordinance to prevent the cutting of the old oak trees that graced Front Street. We were both very disturbed at some of the reactions we had gotten from some of the Town Officials in regards to the trees, and were promised that if we would "calm down" that the Town would investigate a Tree Ordinance.
Mr. Hasbrouck, who was in his late eighties at the time, went all around collecting signatures and the issue faded into the background. I appeared in front of the Town Board on a couple of occasions through the years thereafter and nothing was ever done.
Then, several years ago the Town started a project on Back Street which required the cutting of all the trees bordering the road. The Town Manager, nor the Mayor, nor the Board Members would talk to me about this, but rather, sent their Public Works Director, whom they knew I had a special fondness for, to "beg" for my signature.
He told me how important the project was and said that the Town had promised to replace all of my Back Street trees. I agreed to "take off my lawyer hat" and signed, and my trees have still not been replaced (through no fault of the Public Works Director).
When the Front Street Project was first proposed, I went to the public hearings and requested that the Town look at some other options for replacing the water lines that would possibly allow us to keep our trees. They would not. I offered to pay any out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of looking at other options. They would not agree.
Now, there is absolutely nothing about the way any of these things have been handled that makes me want to do anything voluntarily with the Town. Even so, I have written a letter to the Board on two occasions telling them I would sign their easement if they would come up with an acceptable plan to replace the trees. If they don't want to do that, they can spend some more money on legal fees and can pay me some money for my property.
Why the Town would rather do this instead of putting the money towards beautification of Front Street is a mystery to me, but that is not my call. If they want to take me to court, all I have to gain is money, but the citizens who enjoy the scenery of Front Street in Bladenboro will greatly suffer. They call this progress.
Cynthia Adams Singletary
Attorney At Law and
Bladenboro Main Street