Town of James Island looking to change grand tree definition

VIDEO: Town of James Island looking to change grand tree defintion
Photo Source: Town of James Island
Photo Source: Town of James Island

JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Some residents in James Island are feeling a sense of temporary relief, after the town's Planning Commission decided to vote down a proposal to recommend the change in the grand tree definition to town council.

The proposal on the table looked to change the definition of a grand tree from 18 inches in diameter to 24 inches in diameter. This would allow more trees to be cut down without a permit.

It's the beauty of landscape that brought many people to the town of James Island, like resident Brook Lyon. She says she moved to the town in 1993.

"It was sort of spiritual experience driving down Fort Johnson road with the canopy of Oaks as well as Riverland Drive," says Lyon.

She says a lot has changed since then any many residents agree that they would like to see development slow down in the town. Lyon hopes to see some sort of compromise if any changes are made.

"We're losing our natural beauty and resources, so that's why I want to fight so hard to save what we can," says Lyon.

Some people don't want to see the definition of a grand tree change because that would mean most trees that are smaller than 24 inches in diameter could be removed without a permit. However, Mayor Woolsey says that's the way it was when the town was formed and that number was knocked down to 18 inches in few years ago.

"Some people in their opposition to development have tried to down grade grand tree to make every tree a grand tree," says Mayor Woolsey. "They think they're going to use those rules to block development."

Mayor Woolsey says most of the town is made up of residential areas and the change would help residents gain control over cutting down trees in their own yard.

If you take a look at this map (Photo 2), the yellow represents the Town of James Island where the change would go in effect. Surrounding areas in the tones of gray reflect the City and County of Charleston and the City of Folly Beach. They have different ordinances, but most with the 24-inch grand tree standard.

Councilman and council liaison to the Planning Commission, Leonard Blank, says making the change could cut down on confusion among residents living in different jurisdictions, but who are still close by.

"Your next door neighbor is taking down a 24-inch tree and you can't take down but an 18-inch tree and it's very confusing for the resident," says Blank.

Blank says the change would help residents have more control of their own property.

"I have a lady that comes in here once a month who makes payment a because she was fined for taking a tree down because she wanted to plant a garden in her neighborhood," says Blank.

There will be a public hearing on the grand tree recommendation at the James Island Town Council meeting on March 17.

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