The Lowcountry loves its trees - the ones in the median of I-26, the magnolias that line Maybank Highway along the municipal golf course, and the ones that make Ashley River Road a certified scenic highway.
So an item on today's City of Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals agenda is sure to be of interest to the tree-loving public. Mungo Homes wants to remove 33 grand trees from a large tract of land near Maclaura Hall on Ashley River Road to make way for a large subdivision.
City of Charleston Director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability Tim Keane says neighbors have studied the plans and talked to the developer. He thinks most are satisfied with the request.
Indeed, it is vastly more acceptable to them than the condominiums planned for the property several years ago. That plan was ditched after a loud public outcry.
Mr. Keane says the current proposal has been modified. It originally called for 38 grand trees to be removed, none of them Category A or Category B, which are considered the most valuable.
The subdivision will have a large buffer along the scenic highway. And Mr. Keane says city staff plans to recommend saving another six or more.
Still, it is not unlikely that tree-lovers will show up at the meeting to see for themselves. They don't tend to take grand trees lightly (24 inches or more in diameter at chest height, according to City of Charleston regulations).
Just listen to the protests when SCE&G contractors butcher trees that are near power lines. Or when the city permits a wooded site to be shorn for a so-called "gathering place."
The tree defenders will want to make certain that the subdivision will not be built at the expense of its scenic environs.
The road that goes past several plantations, including Drayton Hall and Middleton Place, is treasured for its canopy of trees, its abundant wildlife and its rich history.
Any developments should be carefully vetted to ensure they don't do damage to the road's scenic quality.
Mr. Keane points out that the plan, as it is being presented, preserves 167 grand trees.
A separate request to remove a grand tree on Savage Road will likely be deferred because city staff doesn't support it.
And another request to remove eight grand trees on Clements Ferry Road will not get staff's support either. Staff will recommend saving more trees than the 61 now being proposed.
The City of Charleston's tree ordinance is a strict one for good reason. Trees are lovely to look at, they provide shade and they are home to birds and other creatures.
Even on urban streets in Charleston the city is cooperating with groups whose mission is to plant trees.
Today's BZA agenda items have been studied by city staff. Now it's time for the public to consider whether the exceptions to the city's tree ordinance are reasonable.
Any time grand trees are at risk is a good time for the public to add its considerable voice to the process.
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