Tree fee a new option for businesses

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Businesses cutting trees in Dorchester County now have the option to pay the county to replace them rather than doing it themselves.

Dorchester County Council unanimously approved a “Fee in Lieu of Planting Trees Requirement for Mitigation” at its April 21 meeting in St. George.

The fee allows businesses an alternative method for mitigating tree removal during the construction process. Previously, if a property developer cut down a protected tree it was required to replant the tree on the property.

The motion to adopt a fee was one of three that addressed changes in the county tree protection policy.

At the April 7 council meeting, the Planning, Development and Building Committee voted to amend the current Zoning and Land Development Standards Section 12.4, Tree and Canopy Protection Standards, to loosen restrictions on single family residences and tighten restrictions on developers.

As a part of changing developers’ restrictions, the updated ordinance implements a new “tree bank” system. Its specifics, and the goals of implementing the system, are described in the Tree Planting Plan.

According to the plan, when a developer cuts down a protected tree and does not replant as mitigation, the developer will be charged a fee. The fees will be deposited into the tree bank account to be used only for implementing the Tree Planting Plan – that is, replacing trees in public county spaces.

Protected trees are 15 inches or greater in diameter at breast height.

In a unanimous vote, the fee was set at $200 per caliper-inch, as recommended by the Dorchester County Planning and Zoning Department.

Council also unanimously voted to give third and final reading to the updated Tree and Canopy Protection Standards, with one additional amendment, and the Tree Planting Plan ordinances.

Councilman David Chinnis, chairman of the PDB Committee, said the Fee in Lieu of Planting Trees Required for Mitigation implements a specific requirement on both developers and the county to ensure trees are replanted.

Councilman Jay Byars said he approved of the changes.

“Before they might have replanted in an industrial park where not many people will see [the trees], but if we replant we’ll be able to put treescaping on roadways and other public right-of-ways.”

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