North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey made his feelings clear about pine trees Thursday, calling for the city to exempt the species from rules about tree-cutting.

"It's not, in my estimation, a substantial tree," said the mayor. "I don't like pine trees in my yard, and I don't have any, thank God."

The proposed rule change could be a windfall for real estate developers.

Currently, if any tree at least 8 inches in diameter at breast height is cut down, city regulations require the planting of replacement trees, or a payment to a tree fund. Smaller trees are exempt.

The contribution required for cutting down a 10-inch-diameter pine tree, for example, would be $870, based on figures provided by Planning and Zoning Director Gwen Moultrie. So, clearing a multi-acre tract of land for development could really add up under current rules.

Several City Council members expressed concern about the potential loss of revenue to the city's tree-planting fund. The city doesn't plant pine trees, but uses the money to plant live oak trees and other varieties.

"We're going to lose a lot of money for tree replacement if we eliminate pine trees," Councilman Bobby Jameson said.

Dwight Stigler and Ron Brinson also expressed reservations about the plan, and the Planning Commission voted unanimously against the proposed rule change in December.

Stigler said exempting pine trees would remove an incentive for developers to plant new trees. Brinson wondered what's so bad about pine trees.

"You can hug a pine tree as easy as you can hug an oak tree," he said.

One audience member also spoke against the plan Thursday night.

"I am not an eco-greenie, but I do like pine trees," said Melanie Folmar of Otranto Road. "We live in the South, and we do need shade."

The issue goes next to a City Council committee meeting Jan. 16. Council members will consider a potential compromise that would maintain protection for "grand" pine trees at least 24 inches in diameter.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552