• The department designs many urban forest improvements, such as the median on this new 2-mile thoroughfare with bike lanes and sidewalks, in-house.

    Credit: Kourtney Vincent

    The department designs many urban forest improvements, such as the median on this new 2-mile thoroughfare with bike lanes and sidewalks, in-house.

Landscape Management Division
Engineering & Property
Management Department
City of Charlotte, N.C.

Challenge: Keeping the right-of-way clear for both motorists and pedestrians along 2,400 miles of city-maintained streets during a time of significant change.

Our nine full-time Right-of-Way Management Section employees mow roadsides, control vegetation around fixed assets, apply herbicides, manage 1,000 contractor-maintained landscaped medians, and respond to customer service requests related to vegetation obstruction of safe passage or sightline obstruction.

The city requires the abutting property owner to maintain any property or driveway between the property line and the curb of a paved street. Even with this code in place and largely enforced, there are still 16,000 locations adjacent to undeveloped properties or where topography, wooded areas, or other naturally occurring obstacles such as streams prevent the adjacent property owner from maintaining the curb. Which means we do it.

Also, simple roadsides of grass shoulders and wooded areas are giving way to urban streetscapes with curbs and gutters, planting strips, street trees, sidewalks, and bike lanes. North Carolina cities may only grow within their existing boundaries and through voluntary annexations. So as Charlotte grows, we’ve got two challenges: changing vegetation and changing right-of-way use.

Solution: We’re leveraging equipment, products, processes, and technology to improve service.

For example, we’re diversifying our equipment inventory. Two large, agricultural-type tractors are being replaced with two smaller, more agile, multifunctional articulating tractors and one multifunctional, heavy-duty utility vehicle.

We installed automatic vehicle locators to capture real-time tractor position. This telemetry not only means we mow on schedule and where needed; it allows us to respond to service requests within two working days by dispatching equipment closest to a problem location. GIS vacant parcel data and mapping are used in combination with the mowing data collected to manage operations and tweak work processes.

We’re also exploring how selective herbicides, growth regulators, and chemical pruners can be used to deploy a mixed-management approach of mechanical and chemical maintenance. One example is using Monsanto Co.’s Outrider to control Johnsongrass. Complaints related to encroaching vegetation, sight obstructions, and tall grass fell 40% after one year of proactive treatment.