County seeks community input on tree-protection regulation

By Kate Cerve

Beaufort, SC (July 4, 2010)- Few issues, especially in Beaufort County, elicit more emotion than trees, said Skip Kincaid, an urban forester with Davey Resource Group. He has seen people cry because they lost a tree special to them and others upset because trees they didn’t want had to remain standing. That’s why Beaufort County is seeking community input before its staff rewrites tree-protection regulations and recommends new language to County Council.

About 15 residents attended a public meeting last week as part of the comment-gathering process. Some said they hope for an ordinance that is easier to understand. Others asked the county to make sure municipalities weigh in on the changes. Some urged county staff to consider the influence of planned unit developments and property owners associations that are involved with some of the area’s most beautiful land.

David Tedder, who owns two acres on Lady’s Island, said he opposes more regulations on the types of trees that can be removed from private property. “It’s my decision — not yours — what I do with my land,” he said. “… Fix what needs fixing. Don’t fix what’s not broke.” Other residents, such as Sandy Stephan of Lady’s Island, said trees offer many benefits that extend to the entire community. “We have to think about all the people around us, the whole world,” she said.

The county, through a grant from the S.C. Forestry Commission, hired the Missouri-based Davey Resource Group to collect comments and draft a new tree-protection ordinance. The grant is for $9,500, to be matched by the county, according to Amanda Flake, county natural resources planner. Current rules are more than 10 years old and difficult to understand, Flake said. The county is seeking an ordinance more compatible with a new development code that Beaufort County and some municipalities are working toward.

Flake said some ways to improve current tree rules include:
• Better defining specimen, or significant, trees.
• Distinguishing between rural, suburban and urban areas to avoid a one-size-fits-all code.
• Creating better standards for tree management in open spaces and common areas in large planned communities.
• Creating more effective, but fair, standards that protect trees on single-family home lots.
• Improving tree protection standards for construction sites.

Kincaid said his group will listen to all opinions, weighing the rights to manage personal property against what’s best for the county as a whole. “The challenge is to marry and blend all of those,” Kincaid said. He said his group expects to finish its work within 60 days and pass recommendations to county staff. Flake said she hopes suggestions for better regulations are presented to council by the end of the year. “This will be a process and it could be a lengthy process,” Kincaid said. “But I think it is one that will be worthwhile for this area.”

Related Resource:
The Beaufort Gazette- County seeks community input on tree-protection regulation