After encouragement by several residents, Caswell Beach Town Commission significantly increased fines for those who cut down specimen trees without a permit.

During the October 10 meeting, Commissioners noted that the town’s fine for cutting trees without a permit is $25, but some homeowners associations charge as much as $500 per incident.

The town’s rules apply to hardwood trees greater than six inches in diameter, softwoods and evergreens greater than eight inches, and flowering species greater than two inches.

Exceptions are granted for trees within 12 feet of a building, within three feet of a driveway or paved walkway, trees damaged by lightning, diseased trees, and trees leaning 45-degrees or less (as measured from the ground).

Commissioner Marti Hardy said she would support a fine as high as $500. Commissioner George Kassler said he thought that was excessive.

Both commissioners Dan O’Neill and Ken Hudson said they would like to see more information before imposing a fine as high as $500. O’Neill also suggested holding a public hearing if the town wanted to go that way.

Shirley Johnson said she and her husband chose Caswell Beach for retirement, not so much for the house but for its natural setting with an abundance of trees. She said she was concerned the town wasn’t doing enough to conserve natural habitats.

Resident Emily Wilkins said a $25 fine was not enough to deter potential offenders.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to raise the fine to $100.

In other business, Town Administrator Chad Hicks reported that staff had removed all known hazardous debris from the beach. Also, the stormwater pump at OceanGreens has been repaired and put back in service, he said.