June 26, 2023

Charles Swenson, Coastal Observer

Planners endorse raising fine for tree cutting

A plan to raise the penalties for cutting trees protected by Georgetown County ordinance drew praise at a public hearing, with one caveat: the ordinance doesn’t go far enough.

“What would it hurt to protect 10-inch pine trees,” asked Snipe Allen, a Heritage Plantation resident who has a degree in forest science.

Pines aren’t on the list of protected species in the ordinance. Neither are palmettos, gums and a few other ornamental species. But the others can’t be cut without a permit on the Waccamaw Neck if their trunk diameter is 10 inches or greater.

The current penalty for removing or damaging those trees is $500 each. The Planning Commission last week recommended that be changed to $500 for each inch of trunk width. The county would also withhold permits for development on the property for two years. Mitigation would be required, as in the current ordinance.

“To say I am excited to be here on this particular topic is an understatement,” said Amy Armstrong, executive director of the S.C. Environmental Law Project.  

It’s the fourth change to the ordinance she has seen. But it still comes up short by exempting occupied single-family homes unless the tree is 24 inches or greater in diameter, Armstrong said.

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