The plan to develop a 300-apartment "gathering place" retirement complex in the last wooded stretch of Maybank Highway looks good so far to the Coastal Conservation League.
The group won't oppose a permit that would allow the cutting of 60 grand trees among 107 on the 22-acre site, said Katie Zimmerman, project manager. The decision followed a walk-through of the site Friday and a review of plans with a landscape architect for the developer and Charleston planners. A "grand tree" is a large native hardwood; under city law, it is given some protections from being cut down. A number of the grand trees that would be cut already are dead, Zimmerman said.
The conservation league will follow the permitting process to "make sure there are specific reasons" when each of the 60 trees is proposed to be cut, she said.
"They're not going to go out there and raze the property. (Tree removal) will be done incrementally," Zimmerman said. "The permit will lock in the tree save areas, and they might not need to cut down all the other trees."
The project proposal protects most of the remaining trees in 25-foot "tree save" buffers along the back of the property facing the Cross Creek subdivision and Fleming Road. It also saves at least one large live oak along the Maybank Highway frontage, she said.
The application to fell the trees will be considered by the Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday. The parcel sits at the north end of Maybank, behind the James Island Shopping Center on Folly Road; the site already has been largely cleared of undergrowth.
It is zoned for "gathering place" projects, highly compact building of walkable communities that leaves open and protected land.
The conservation league champions that sort of building as "smart growth," but nearby residents' concerns about how many trees would be removed prompted the group to take a close look.
"This project really does have great potential. We're going to keep working with them and make sure this ends up being a great place for the neighborhood to enjoy," Zimmerman said.
"I think this is a project that follows every single tenet of the gathering place zoning district," said Bill Eubanks of Urban Edge Studios, the landscape architects working for the developer, The Residential Group in Atlanta.
"We're still landscape architects. We like trees. We want to achieve the intensity of development a 'gathering place' needs to have while at the same time saving as many trees as possible."
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--A mixed-use town, village or neighborhood center.
--No maximum density or minimum lot size requirement.
--Provides walking-conducive housing and services.
--Locations accessible by public transportation.
--Provides opportunities for bicycle travel.
--Includes open space for community use, such as neighborhood greens or parks.
A tree measuring 24 inches or more in diameter at breast height, not including pines.
What: Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals considers grand tree removal for Maybank Highway property.
When: 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: Charleston County School District offices, 75 Calhoun St.