The Bluffton tree committee Thursday refined proposed rules for tree care on public property after a town councilman said the ordinance would cost too much.
The Town Council gave initial approval to the ordinance earlier this month, but sent it back to the tree committee to water down the requirements. Council will consider the revised ordinance March 8.
Councilman Mike Raymond said the first draft of the ordinance designed to protect Bluffton's tree canopy would "handcuff the town." It would have mandated tasks such as an inventory of all the town's trees, which would be a burden on town staff and resources, Raymond said.
For other activities such as tree trimming, it requires a certified arborist to supervise the work.
"Each one of those things carries a price tag," Raymond said.
The tree committee pruned the language to make the standards goals rather than mandates, according to town facilities director Tammy Malone.
One of those goals is to balance the trees' aesthetics with tree trimming for overhead power lines.
The public tree care ordinance would require utility companies to work with the town's facilities director and have a certified arborist advise the trimming.
The committee began considering the problem after finding out that palmetto trees planted on Calhoun Street as memorials to fallen soldiers of the first and second World Wars have grown so tall they may not survive more trimming, arborist and tree committee member Chris Gerards said.
Burying the power lines or removing the trees are both costly solutions that are not in the works, Gerards said.
"It seems to be an intractable problem," Gerards said. "We're still hammering that out."
SCE&G spokeswoman Kim Asbill said the company follows standards agreed upon by arborists, utility companies, governments and others to direct future growth away from power lines by trimming limbs on a five-year cycle.
Asbill said the company already coordinates utility tree trimming with the town.
Similarly, many of the guidelines outlined in the public tree care ordinance formalize standards the town already follows, said committee member Rick Nardone, owner of Davis Landscape.
The ordinance signals a commitment to the stewardship of natural resources, Nardone said.
"It isn't necessarily anything that costs more or less than methods that have been followed," Nardone said.
The ordinance allows the town to apply for a Tree City, USA designation that could increase grant-earning power, Malone said.
Malone wrote in an e-mail that the facilities department will conduct most of the tasks outlined in the ordinance if adopted March 8.
"Some of the tasks, such as an inventory and maintenance plan, would require extra diligence," she wrote.
The tree committee will continue to resolve issues involving tree trimming by utilities by meeting with SCE&G personnel.
Aesthetics have been a concern to residents all over town each time the utilities trim, Malone wrote.
"Balancing the needs of residents and businesses for safe, reliable power and protecting one of Bluffton's greatest assets, trees, is challenging and no immediate answer is obvious," she wrote.