Lady's Island residents upset over county's tree removal project

The Burris family says the county is leaving behind debris and stumps.
The Burris family says the county is leaving behind debris and stumps.

By Jaime Dailey - bio | email

LADY'S ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - Trees are pretty but a problem on Lady's Island. They're growing right beside the Lady's Island Airport. The county had them cut down due to safety reasons but it's not pretty for property owners like the Burris family.

They gave the county permission to cut and remove some of their trees, but they were not happy with the way it started out.

"All of this was really, really shady, you could hear birds," said Jerry Burris.

Burris says that's all in the past now. The county hired a contractor to trim and remove the trees on their property that's been in their family for 50 years.

"Our little piece of property has been a sanctuary for us and now it's just butchered," said Burris.

"These are the woods we've played in. My mom played in them when she was a little girl. I played in them when I was a little boy. We loved this property," he said.

The Burris' live near the Lady's Island Airport and county officials say their trees and others in the area were becoming safety hazards.

"The trees over the years have grown to the point where they are protruding into the obstruction free air space we're required to maintain for safe approaches into the airport," said county airport director Paul Andres.

The Burris family didn't want to get in the way of safety and allowed the county to trim and remove just over 170 of their trees, but claim the county is taking more and clear-cut part of their property, leaving behind debris and stumps.

"For every one tree, five have come out," said Burris. "We were told they would do it with as little impact as possible and this is what we've gotten so far."

The county says once they saw what was happening over there, they halted the project.

"We were concerned about some additional damage that was being done to smaller trees and under growth that precautions were supposed to be taken to minimize damage," said Andres. "Some disturbance is probably inevitable but to the degree we witnessed out there, we thought it was just way too much."

While Burris is glad they suspended the project for now, he says they can't undo the damage. "It's too late, they've already destroyed this piece of property," said Burris.

But they're hoping this won't happen to their other five acres.

Andres tells WTOC the contractors met today and are supposed to come up with a better plan of action to minimize the damage to the Burris' property. Andres says the work won't begin again until he's satisfied with the plans.

As far as compensation goes for the Burris family, the county plans on replacing some of their trees with smaller trees and bushes, but they're not sure how many will be replaced.

So far, the Burris' property is the only piece of land affected. This is part of a bigger county project which involves removing more than 1,000 trees over the next couple of months on several properties.

Some of the other property owners on Lady's Island are in litigation with the county over this project.