News 2 I-Team: Municipal governments the key to saving trees?

A view from a plane of a development in Mount Pleasant.

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCBD) — There’s no doubt – Charleston is growing. 34 people are moving to the tri-county region every day.

With that growth come new developments like homes, apartments, and shopping centers. Some who live here are worried our trees may be suffering from these developments.

Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Joe Bustos also runs a flight school, so he is in the air every day. That gives him a bird’s-eye view of the town.

“Just little pockets of land that have just been clear cut. That’s how you know that they’re going to be developed, because they’re just cleared of any trees,” said Bustos.

“I can’t believe that, on some of the bigger tracks, there just aren’t more trees that can be saved,” he said.

Pat Sullivan feels the same way. She lives in Mount Pleasant and speaks up about the issue at council meetings.

She says she doesn’t want her town to be just any place, she wants it to be some place.

“Some of the developments that we flew over had no trees, and we probably won’t have any trees for 30 or 40 years,” said Bustos.

Bustos says the Mount Pleasant Town Council is looking into its ordinances to possibly protect more trees.  However, developers say some of those ordinances are the reason they cut down trees.

“There are some regulatory things we have to do. You know, storm water, things they have to do to fill the lot, often kills the trees as well,” said David Ellis, the Executive Vice President of the Charleston Home Builders’ Association.

He says developers don’t want to cut down trees.

“When you talk to developers, they’ll say trees sell homes. They certainly want to keep as many as they can. But, at the same time you come onto a pristine lot, and often times trees have to be removed,” Ellis said.

The I-Team dug into some of the ordinances in our area’s counties.

In Berkeley County, developers can timber a lot without a permit from the engineering department. That means they can cut the trees, but they must leave the stump.

Berkeley County offers incentives for developers who help protect trees. They will get a 5% density bonus if they protect at least 50 percent of the trees on the lot.

In Charleston County, all trees greater than 8 inches in diameter are protected and require a permit.

Also in the counties, there are some trees in “buffer” areas that can’t be touched.

A development’s plan must also go through an approval process.

All municipalities have different regulations, though, so Bustos says council members need to pay attention to what’s coming down–as more buildings are going up.

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