Town Growth Trumps Tree Growth
Swayed by passionate series of statements from Mayor, Town Planning Commission votes down change to grand tree ordinance
May 15, 2013
An undeniable and atypical air of tension hung about the meeting of the Town of James Island’s Planning Commission last Thursday, May 9 as the body considered a change to the ordinance governing grand trees. And while much of the evening’s discussion revolved around the definition of what constitutes a “grand tree,” in the end, only the dissenting vote of Planning Commissioner Garrett Millikan prevented the five-member body from unanimously voting down the change to the Town’s policy.
At the previous meeting on April 11, the consensus of all planning commissioners, according to an email sent to JIM by Millikan, was that section 9.4.1 be modified to read: “Any tree species measuring 18 inches of greater diameter breast height (DBH) except pines. All grand Trees are prohibited from removal unless a Grand Tree Removal Permit is issued.” Pine trees are excluded in both the new version of the ordinance and the working policy, established in 2006.
Following the protocol for changing an ordinance, Town administrator Hal Mason, presented that staff’s position on the change. Mason stated that staff felt that the timing wasn’t right for the change as the Town was still settling into a regular staff and couldn’t handle the extra demands just yet. Following Mason’s short statement, Town Mayor Bill Woolsey stood to address the room on their need to keep the status quo regarding the Town’s policy regarding grand trees.
“I believe that with the situation the Town is in today, with our key focus being the people of James Island, regaining the other 40 percent of people we lost, this is not the time to increase the regulation on the property owners or the residents of James Island,” said Woolsey. “Now if y’all want to revisit this in a year or two when things are different, well that would be fine, but I really think that it would be a mistake to make any change at all.”
Millikan countered, reasoning that the time was right to set a precedent regarding how the Town handles issues like an ordinance governing grand trees. Quoting a City of Charleston survey regarding James Island, that the adoption of the change to the ordinance could protect around 6 percent of the grand trees within the Town’s limits between 18-24 inches in diameter.
“It would be a shame, to use the analogy of the human population of only saving old folks and letting all the young folks die or be harvested,” stated Millikan, who cited a series of reasons for his support of the change. “That leads to a sort of bottleneck or dead-end situation down the road, when all the trees die out.”
By emphasizing his desire to keep things status quo, Woolsey reminded the room that current lobbying efforts to the state of South Carolina allowing for the annexation of some territory lost in the latest dissolution of the Town trumped all other priorities. “I personally am very interested in getting Riverland Terrace, Woodland Shores, Sol Legare Island, and Grimball Road back in the Town,” said Woolsey. “I think to have the Town greatly increase the degree of regulation: on people’s yards, of how many permits they have to get, is a mistake. I think it is aserious mistake, very much inconsistent with the priorities of my administration, and I just think that you need to leave it as it is for now.”
Woolsey’s argument, delivered and countered passionately, ultimately swayed the Commission, as by a 4-1 margin, with Millikan the sole dissenting vote as the Commission voted to maintain the current Town policy regarding protecting grand trees.
For more information, see the Town’s website at www.jamesislandsc.us, stop by Town Hall at 1238-B Camp Rd., or give them a call at 795-4141.
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