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Environment: Groups may press for live oak protections

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

The removal of a live oak tree last month to make room for a swimming pool at a Murrells Inlet home has raised a red flag for some county residents.

Georgetown County Council removed tree protection rules for residential property when it changed the county’s tree ordinance last year. But many residents didn’t realize there are no rules in place for single-family homes.

“It has caught a lot of us by surprise,” said Sue Myers, who chairs the environmental resources committee for the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. Since the live oak was cut, members of the group started talking about approaching council with a request to change the rules again.

“We haven’t come to a decision yet,” Myers said. But members talked about the possibility of special protections for “really old live oaks.”

If the league moves forward with its plans, Bill Chandler of Preserve Murrells Inlet said he is certain his group will join the effort.

“I guess when the ordinance was finalized by County Council with the help of Glen O’Connell, people weren’t paying attention,” said John Bracken, who was on a Sierra Club committee that helped the Planning Commission draft new rules to better protect trees. The draft lost its teeth when it went to a council subcommittee chaired by O’Connell.

“It all just washed away,” Bob Schuhmacher, a Sierra Club member, said of the group’s work and recommendations. “The Sierra Club at this point said ‘something is better than nothing,’ but now clearly something is not enough.”

Bracken would “welcome the opportunity to go back and visit it and see if the Planning Commission and County Council are now concerned after this most recent event,” he said.

Hobie Kraner, an inlet resident, said he would love to see that and he’s glad if some eyes were opened to the effect of council’s actions. But he’s not optimistic about getting council to restore the former protections.

“Judging from Jerry Oakley’s response last week and Bob Anderson’s response, I think it’s going to be a long shot,” he said.

Oakley and Anderson, both council members, said they support the action council took on the tree ordinance. Environmentalists hope public opinion can change that.

Since the tree was removed, the community has been buzzing, calling it a shame, a waste, sad, disrespectful to the area’s history and “just wrong.”

Related story: No permit required as owner cuts down live oak

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