Proposed changes to Columbia County's tree ordinance would allow developers to grade some residential lots before the lots are laid out for county approval.
A public hearing on the proposed amendment will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday during the county's Development Services Committee meeting in the Evans Government Center auditorium at 630 Ronald Reagan Drive.
Discussion on the issue started about two years ago when a subcommittee of the Engineering Advisory Committee was formed to study the ordinance.
"All this change does is allow the developer in certain circumstances to cut the trees of some of the lots and grade these lots at the same time he's doing road construction," said Mark Ivey, chairman of the engineering board and partner of Ivey Residential.
The changes would apply only to residential developments.
A benefit to the proposed amendment is that it would limit construction traffic on newly paved subdivision roads and reduce some construction costs for builders that are passed along to homeowners, Ivey said.
County Development Services Director Richard Harmon said the tree ordinance was initially placed in the planning section, where it didn't belong.
"We put it where it needed to be, in an environmental place, where engineering can handle it," he said. "They made it a lot better for the subdivisions, where we can have more buffers and ... save more trees."
Harmon will be responsible when enforcement is needed.
The revision, Ivey said, also would help solve stormwater and drainage issues in addition to promoting a more efficient use of resources.
A provision exists in the proposal that requires buffers and the replanting of trees if lots within a development are cleared at the same time as roads are constructed, Ivey said.
"It actually gives the county some stake in it, whereas before, they had no stake in it," he said.
The changes must be approved by the Board of Commissioners before taking effect.
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