During the aftermath of winds from Hurricane Dorian, on Sept. 6, Summerville Mayor Wiley Johnson issued an executive order suspending the requirements of the town’s Tree Protection Ordinance.
One of the town’s oldest ordinances, the tree protection ordinance requires that all trees 6 inches in diameter, including dead trees, require a permit to be removed.
Johnson’s executive order temporarily suspended the tree protection ordinance and allowed residents to cut and remove trees for 30 days without first applying for a permit and paying a fee.
Temporarily suspending the ordinance was meant to help residents alleviate dangerous and hazardous conditions that could affect their public health, safety and welfare.
However, the waiver’s good intentions were quickly taken advantage of by residents who began cutting down perfectly healthy trees, according to Town Administrator Colin Martin, and other town staff members.
During a special-called Town Council meeting on Sept.11, council members passed a resolution to rescind Johnson’s executive order and instead to implement the emergency conditions provision of the tree protection ordinance for 10 days.
Johnson did not attend the meeting. However, he addressed the issue during his monthly Facebook live chat on Wednesday morning.
“I do understand that some people are concerned about giving a 30-day waiver to the tree ordinance,” Johnson said. “At some point you have to trust the people, that they won’t take advantage of this — that they will do what’s morally right. I would not think that anyone would take advantage of this situation and cut down perfectly healthy trees.”
Town Attorney G.W. Parker said when he drafted the executive order on Sept. 6, he mistakenly used the word “suspend,” instead of “waiver.”
He said the town council’s decision to rescind the executive order was the proper corrective action.
According to Parker, any residents seeking to remove healthy trees should apply for a permit and pay the usual fee.
For any trees that are creating a hazardous or dangerous situation, residents must contact any member of the Tree Advisory Protection Committee for approval to remove.
Parker said a fee will not be imposed in those situations. To reach members of the TAP committee; 843-851-4214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.