Planning Commission Hears from Residents on Tree Ordinance

Although a revised tree ordinance may still be many months away from completion, the first step toward achieving that goal was announced at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Blythewood Planning Commission.

John Perry, Town Administrator, told the Commission that Land Plan Group South, of Columbia, had been awarded the bid to consult with the Town on the revision of the ordinance. The announcement sparked comments from the audience, who urged the Commission to move forward with the ordinance revisions as quickly as possible.

Malcolm Gordge, secretary of the recently formed Ashley Oak Homeowners Association, suggested the Commission consider a separate ordinance for residential lots.

“The key is to act quickly,” said Gordge, who lives on Winding Oak Way, “because at the rate these developers are bulldozing lots, there won’t be a tree left before long.”

Henry Lovett, also of Winding Oak Way, said he, too, was concerned with the rate at which the trees were coming down, and not just in Ashley Oaks.

“This is not a request just to protect Ashley Oak,” Lovett said. “This is a request to protect all residential properties within the town limits.”

Jack Davis, a member of the Planning Commission, said he also lives in Ashley Oaks and has seen the rampant clearing of lots first-hand.

“To say that clear-cutting is not taking place just because they leave three trees on the lot – that’s as close to clear-cutting as you can get,” Davis said.

Mike Switzer, Chairman of the Commission, told the audience that the Commission shared their concern and was moving forward with a revised ordinance as quickly as possible.

“I would like to interject that time is of the essence,” Lovett said. “They’ve got bulldozers sitting on properties clearing lots every day.”

The Commission also received an update from Perry on the Municipal Improvement District (MID) plan, which he estimated would cost $1.5 million over three years and would include improvements along Boney Road, east to Main Street, as well as along portions of McNulty Road. The plan would also include a proposed new road, “IGA Boulevard,” that would run roughly parallel to Blythewood Road between the IGA and the First Citizens Bank, and which is part of the Town’s Master Plan, Perry said.

The next step for the plan, Perry said, would be to determine a methodology by which to assess the properties in the proposed MID.

“Per parcel seems way too arbitrary,” Perry said.