Some who live near the Hilton Head Island Airport are complaining about tree-cutting there and have asked the town to intervene.
Island resident Bob Gentzler, president of the Palmetto Hall Plantation Property Owners Association, claims, "indiscriminate" trimming has created an eyesore and eliminated a buffer between the community and the airport.
Gentzler told Town Council Tuesday that the tree-cutting by Beaufort County, which owns the airport, didn't comply with requirements of a permit issued by the town.
Gentzler said Palmetto Hall was assured the work would not diminish the buffer, would be limited to what's necessary to comply with federal aviation safety standards and would be environmentally sensitive.
He showed council "before and after" photos taken from Beach City Road depicting once heavily-wooded areas now sparsely covered by trees.
Town and county officials contend the airport complied with the permit, including replanting trees, which is in the works.
"The town and county hired an arborist who was to direct and supervise the work, as stipulated by the town," county airports director Paul Andres said.
Town staff "didn't inspect every single tree" but regularly monitored work and met with the arborist when questions arose, town land use official Teri Lewis said.The airport will submit a plan, due by March 19, to the town to plant smaller trees within the buffer along Beach City and Dillon roads and St. James Baptist Church property, Andres said. Those trees will not grow into the runway's approach zone, he added.At the same time, county attorneys are getting permission from owners of surrounding property where trees also encroach into the approach slope and need trimming.
"We are very concerned that the same (indiscriminate trimming) can happen again," Gentzler said. "We were assured there would be mitigation for both visual and noise problems created by this work."
The town and county paid for a noise study of the area conducted in September 2010, before work began. "Post-work" noise levels will be recorded later, after trees have been removed, including off-airport, and replanting is completed, Andres said.
Town manager Steve Riley suggested the issue could be resolved by building a berm between the airport and nearby land in exchange for permission from owners to trim their trees.
Should noise levels exceed FAA standards, the county could figure out ways to dampen it and apply for federal money to fund a project, such as a berm, FAA Southern region spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said Wednesday.
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