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Pawleys Island: Restaurant serves up lesson in tree care

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

When oak trees on Highway 17 in front of the Hardee’s restaurant in Pawleys Island were pruned in 2009, county zoning officials turned to the magistrate. When the trees were pruned again this month, they turned to the dictionary.

“They calling ‘pollarding,’ ” said Boyd Johnson, Georgetown County’s director of Planning and Zoning. “I’d never heard of it before.”

But the technique for shaping and encouraging growth on trees dates back several centuries, Johnson and his staff discovered. This time, Hardee’s got a permit for the pruning. The work prompted only one phone call from a concerned resident, Johnson said.

In 2009, the county cited Hardee’s for 14 violations of the tree regulations that are part of the zoning ordinance. It prohibits “crown and trunk disturbance” of protected trees. The pruning was so extreme an arborist hired by the county predicted the trees would die.

The restaurant faced a maximum fine of $15,000, including court costs. The company’s lawyers disputed the county’s claim that the trees were pin oaks, a protected species, and the case was settled before it reached magistrate’s court. Hardee’s agreed to improve its care of the oaks and replace any that died as a result of the severe pruning.

The recent pollarding – the word originally meant to crop hair from the top of the head – was far less extreme than the 2009 work, said Joanne Ochal, the county zoning administrator. She denied a request from Hardee’s in 2009 to remove the trees and another to cut the limbs to improve the view of the restaurant.

This time, Ochal said, Hardee’s wanted to improve the visibility of its sign.

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