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Three things we like: trees, safety and smart growth.
One thing we love: when public policy strikes a prudent balance among these three good things.
To this end, we are monitoring a revision to an existing ordinance that, if passed as recommended, will protect trees while ensuring the safety of homeowners and allow for smart development in the Town of Mount Pleasant.
For the past several months, the Town of Mount Pleasant has studied a revision to their existing tree protection ordinance that would have moved all pine species and sweet gum trees into a protected class.
We’re all for good tree stewardship, but extending protection to these softwood species could cause real problems for residents and landowners alike.
For starters, anyone who’s lived through a hurricane in this region knows that many pine trees are prone to break and damage homes. Under the initial proposed revision, residents wanting to remove pine trees from their property would have been required to replace each tree using a formula based on tree size and health – after having the tree inspected by an arborist, which is burdensome and quite expensive for homeowners.
In addition to hindering existing homeowner’s ability to safeguard their properties, this ordinance would have greatly impacted landowners ability to responsibly develop their property for other uses. That would threaten the town’s future economic development efforts and exacerbate the housing attainability challenge.
Mount Pleasant already has a tree protection policy worthy of recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation as a “Tree City USA” and has held that distinction for 28 years. The town’s current tree ordinance has robust protection in place for more than 30 desirable tree species, including live oak, beech and magnolia.
After lots of discussion and feedback from residents and developers, reasonable balance ruled the day. Mount Pleasant Planning Commission amended the proposed change and voted to extend protection only to long-leaf pines, which are a more rugged native species, and decided not to add sweet gums and other pine species to its protection list.
This revision is on its way to Town Council for first reading and can be adopted as early as April.
By protecting the right kind of trees, not only is Council ensuring the safety of its residents, it’s upholding its commitment to preserving the Town’s natural beauty while leaving options open for future economic development and attainable housing. That’s a balance Mount Pleasant residents can cheer.