Hilton Head Island Airport tree replanting to begin in February

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 22, 2014 

STAFF GRAPHIC

More than 2 1/2 years in the making, plans to replant about 1,300 trees and shrubs are back on track, according to the county airports director.

After years of litigation and bidding, replanting of trees and shrubs at Hilton Head Island Airport is set to begin next month, county officials say.

Beaufort County Council's Finance Committee gave initial approval Tuesday to a contract with Bluffton company Newtech Inc. to plant trees in a buffer area along the north end of the airport's property. The work will cost $450,000.

"It's replacement in accordance with the town of Hilton Head's land management ordinance, and it's all on airport property," county airports director Jon Rembold said.

The project should start "sometime in February," once it receives the full council's approval, Rembold added.

About 1,300 trees and shrubs will replace those removed from the north end of the runway in 2011 because they had grown into its flight paths.

The new trees will be smaller and will not grow tall enough to interfere with flights. However, they will provide a 75-foot visual and sound buffer along Beach City and Dillon roads, according the plans.

An Federal Aviation Administration grant will cover 95 percent of the project's cost, according to county documents. The remainder will be covered by a state grant and a county match, so the replanting will cost the county only about $11,000.

The tree cutting was snared in litigation by two of the airport's neighbors -- the Palmetto Hall Plantation Property Owners Association and the St. James Baptist Church -- who contended the removal eliminated the natural sound barrier and created an eyesore.

The replanting has been more than 2 1/2 years in the making, following an appeal in the tree-cutting legal battle and problems hiring contractors, county administrator Gary Kubic said.

"Eventually the lawsuit was dropped, but the project then had to be rebid due to the lengthy delay," Rembold said.

A series of unsuccessful bids -- contractors' offers came in too high or didn't meet project specifications -- further delayed the project until Newtech finally won the contract earlier this month, Rembold said.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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