Tree-lovers mourn loss of grand trees

  • Thursday, January 17, 2013

SCE&G cut down this tree because it was “almost completely hollow,” a spokeswoman said. The utility is upgrading infrastructure in Summerville and cut down some trees at 126 East 2nd St. North. LESLIE CANTU/JOURNAL SCENE

Summerville lost a little more of its charm this week when at least three grand trees were cut down on property on East 2nd Street North, across from the CVS.
Contractors for SCE&G removed the trees to make way for a new power line.
The new bare look of the property left some Summervillians dismayed.
“Within a town it shows blatant disregard for the people in the town, the residents and property owners and citizens in Summerville, for them to just cut whatever they want to,” said Heyward Hutson, president of the Summerville Preservation Society.
If SCE&G were to cut down similar trees along West Carolina Avenue there would be outrage, he said, and there needs to be a public outcry to get SCE&G to change its methods.
Many of the grand trees in the old part of town and along Central Avenue could be in peril if the utility were to realign the lines there, tree lovers pointed out.
SCE&G, however, said the tree cutting was necessary.
As part of a system upgrade that will meet increased demand for power in Summerville and minimize outages during storms, the utility is installing new infrastructure.
In this particular block, that meant installing a new power pole to straighten the line. The new pole, however, is farther from the street and intrudes more on the property, and is therefore closer to the trees.
“It was our original intent to only side trim the tree.  However upon inspection from our aerial buckets, it was discovered the tree was almost completely hollow.  This information was relayed back to the property owner and the decision was made to remove the tree, as the side trimming would greatly increase the probability of the tree falling towards the line or property,” said Kim Asbill, an SCE&G spokeswoman.
Asbill was speaking of one tree located roughly in the center of the property. It was unclear whether the other trees cut were also hollow.
When it comes to trees, SCE&G plays by different rules than everyone else.
SCE&G has the right, within its right-of-way, to do as it pleases. By agreement with the town, it does notify the town when it intends to cut a grand tree.
A property owner, on the other hand, needs to obtain a permit to take down a tree larger than six inches diameter at 4.5 feet above the ground.
A codes enforcement officer reviews the request, but if the tree is a grand tree, or larger than 16 inches diameter at 4.5 feet above the ground, then the tree advisory protection committee gets involved.
“If removal is not necessitated by death, disease, or damage of the tree (not caused by the property owner), then the tree will have to be mitigated at 50 percent for protected trees and 100 percent for grand trees,” according to the town’s tree brochure.
In this case, SCE&G had to obtain an additional easement from the owner in order to install the new power pole and straighten out the line.
Owner David Willis said he knew initially that a couple of trees would have to go, but then learned as the work progressed that another would have to be cut.
He said there are no plans for the property at present.
Hutson said it’s a shame because that neighborhood north of the railroad tracks has been revitalizing and people have been fixing up the little cottages there. Part of what makes it a nice neighborhood is the trees, he said.

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