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Several elements come to mind when people think of Beaufort, and trees are an important part of the "Beaufort look." Property owners are stewards of these trees, not actual owners, and for that reason an effort by an advisory board to the City Council to protect trees is encouraging.'
The city's four-member Tree Board has been quietly going about its job, and the results will benefit all residents of the city.'
In recent years, the county and municipalities have been plagued with the clear-cutting of trees for development. Even when a parcel of land isn't wiped clean like someone erasing a blackboard, severe damage to wonderful trees can result.'
Removal of trees can be damaging to a community's aesthetics, but construction work that encroaches on trees or sidewalks or driveways that are built too close to trees also can cause harm. Quite often the trees die, and until they are removed, they create a hazard for people who drive or walk near them.'
So members of the city Tree Board are examining many of these issues. While at it, they should examine the fine for tree removal. '
Port Royal recently realized that trees are an important element of the Lowcountry look. The Town Council approved an ordinance that requires homeowners and developers to obtain a more expensive permit and the blessing of an arborist before trimming or removing trees.'
The goal is to retain as many of the large, old-growth trees as possible, especially live oak trees, that have become part of the beauty and grace of the Lowcountry.'
Beaufort's Tree Board is examining a price structure for removal of trees. While it might be more expensive than Port Royal's the fine for violation is the same -- $1,087. But the fine for violations should be more expensive -- something that really gets a builder's or developer's attention.'
But the real key to preserving trees will be the City Council's approval of any recommendation and enforcement of the rules. Too many people moving here look at a $1,087 fine and shrug. And the practice of seeking forgiveness rather than permission for cutting trees in developments should end. To get the attention of those who think it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission, the fines must be stiff and the enforcement rigid. '
The Tree Board deserves applause; we hope the City Council will deserve it, too.