Traffic along Maybank Highway on James Island will be impacted the day after Christmas when tree-clearing is scheduled to begin for a planned 280-unit apartment building.

The tree removal, which will cover parts of a five-acre site, is the first step ahead of the bigger apartment construction phase that will begin some time after the new year.

Mike Schwarz, a partner in Woodfield Investments, which is building the apartments located behind James Island Shopping Center, said that between five and eight trucks will be moving in and out of the area starting Thursday.

Each will carry out between two and three loads of downed trees a day. The work should last as many as five days.

Schwarz said he anticipates some of the removal being done through the project's back entrance, on Fleming Road.

After the trees are cleared "it will settle down for a while," he said. Traffic into the site will pick up again, he said, when it comes time to bring in the project's building materials.

The project, which will include a mix of apartments and first floor retail, has been approved by the city but it did draw local opposition by residents who said the development was too large and out of character for the island.

Others said local roads cannot absorb the hundreds more cars that will be added daily when renters begin moving in, slated to begin by early 2015.

The site was approved by the City of Charleston under its "gathering place" zoning classification, which allows for a dense mix of residential, business and commercial offerings.

The four-story apartment building, supported by a six-level parking garage, would go on about five acres of a 22-acre parcel.

Schwarz said there are plans to add a right turn lane into the property from Maybank.

It also appears the apartment is just the first of potentially more construction to come, as other parcels of land adjacent to it are advertised for sale.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.