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James Island garden club takes on Dominion, protesting 35 tree removals, trimming

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Meridian Place

A James Island garden club is planting their feet and hoping to stand tall against a utility company's plans to remove about 35 trees they've planted over the years to beautify their neighborhood entranceway. The Meridian Place residents are rallying to stop Dominion Energy from removing the trees. Brad Nettles/Staff

JAMES ISLAND — The tree-cutting wars are back as members of a garden club are trying to stop the region's power company from removing about 35 trees they've planted at their neighborhood entranceways.

On Friday, at least 10 of the blue shirt-wearing Meridian Place Garden Club members stood along Dexter Lane, one of the entranceways to their neighborhood, off Folly Road near the Walmart, with signs that read "Stop Dominion" in hand.

They've been marching against Dominion Energy each day this week. 

Similar signs were draped around the palm trees, crape myrtles and bushes that Dominion plans to chop. The group has also put flyers on each mailbox in the neighborhood, over 300.

Meridian Place

Meridian Place resident Peggy Scott explains why her James Island garden club is hoping to stand tall against a utility company's plans to remove about 35 trees they've planted over the years to beautify their neighborhood entranceway. Brad Nettles/Staff

"We're not protesting the good they're doing during the storms," said Peggy Scott, the garden club's president. "We're protesting the politics and greed and lack of care for the environment."

The club, established nine years ago, works with the neighborhood's board of directors on beautification efforts such as trees and other plantings, holiday decorations and welcoming new homeowners with a pineapple in hand.

After members heard about Dominion's plans late last week, the group has shifted priorities to advocating for the trees they've planted.

Trimming work is "tentatively" scheduled to begin in late November or early December, Dominion spokesman Paul Fischer said in an email Friday. 

Meridian Place

A James Island garden club is planting their feet and hoping to stand tall against a utility company's plans to remove about 35 trees they've planted over the years to beautify their neighborhood entranceway. The Meridian Place residents are rallying to stop Dominion Energy from removing the trees. Brad Nettles/Staff

Fischer said the trees need to be removed in order to add an additional transmission line in the right of way in that area off George L. Griffith Boulevard.

The project includes installation of galvanized steel poles so the new line will "improve resiliency and reliability for the James Island area," Fischer said.

"We understand the passion surrounding a discussion of tree trimming in the Lowcountry, but this work remains critical to safeguarding our employees, the general public and our lines," Fischer said. "Trees and tree limbs that are too close to power lines pose a fire hazard, and remain the number one reason for power outages across our system."

Meridian Place

A James Island garden club is planting their feet and hoping to stand tall against a utility company's plans to remove about 35 trees they've planted over the years to beautify their neighborhood entranceway. The Meridian Place residents are rallying to stop Dominion Energy from removing the trees. Brad Nettles/Staff

Fischer said Dominion is working with the property management team at Meridian Place — and others in the areas Dominion has customers — "to ensure proper planting of trees along our rights of way in order to avoid utility trimming or removal as the trees mature."

The garden club has called on Charleston City Council members; the mayor's office; state Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston; and the downtown Stop Dominion group for results. 

"We're doing everything we can," Scott said.

Senn said Friday she visited with the club members earlier this week. She usually gets frantic calls from residents when a contractor's bucket trucks are already in the air and chainsaws are buzzing. 

"It's very hard to stop whatever they're doing, but these ladies took preemptive action," Senn said. 

Senn said she told Dominion's government liaison that there's a few palm trees that look like they could be moved and that other trees were low-lying pygmy trees.

Meridian Place

A James Island garden club is planting their feet and hoping to stand tall against a utility company's plans to remove about 35 trees they've planted over the years to beautify their neighborhood entranceway. The Meridian Place residents are rallying to stop Dominion Energy from removing the trees. Brad Nettles/Staff 

"For those trees to be in the way the lines would have to be so low that a car couldn't get underneath it," Senn said. 

Senn said Dominion has made an offer to compensate the garden club, but she is still pushing for the pygmy trees to remain rooted.

Charleston's arborist, David Grant, will be briefed on Dominion's tree removal and trimming next week, city spokesman Jack O'Toole said.

Reach Mikaela Porter at 843-937-5906. Follow her on Twitter @mikaelareporter. 

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