Business

Hilton Head tree chippers can’t halt appeal; property owners hopeful

A work area at Hilton Head Island mulching business ArborNature sits idle on June 22, 2015. The company was cited by the Town last month for operating other than as a wholesale nursery, and is appealing. Neighbors have complained about noise levels from the company’s work recycling trees into mulch.
A work area at Hilton Head Island mulching business ArborNature sits idle on June 22, 2015. The company was cited by the Town last month for operating other than as a wholesale nursery, and is appealing. Neighbors have complained about noise levels from the company’s work recycling trees into mulch. jmitelman@islandpacket.com

The grinding of trees could come to a halt sooner than expected for Hilton Head Island property owners following a town decision to move forward with an appeal process.

The Board of Zoning Appeals voted down a request filed by ArborNature to stop the appeal process, which could ultimately end the company’s mulching operation on Leg O’Mutton Road.

Rick Fisher, a commercial landlord, said the decision comes as a relief following a Circuit Court decision last week to allow the business to continue while a lawsuit is being decided.

The lawsuit was brought by Fisher’s company and Indigo Run owners who have said ArborNature’s business is a nuisance.

“People are suffering everyday and the lawyers are trying to get around this,” Fisher said Monday. “This decision gives us hope.”

The suit followed a town decision that ArborNature is out of compliance with the town’s Land Management Ordinance by allowing grinding of trees. A letter was sent to the company May 13 stating use of the property had switched from landscaping to chipping.

People are suffering everyday and the lawyers are trying to get around this. This decision gives us hope.

Rick Fisher, Hilton Head commercial property owner

Operation on the property is allowed to continue while an appeal process is ongoing.

Chester Williams, ArborNature’s attorney, told the board Monday it wasn’t judicially economic for the town to hear the appeal while the lawsuit continued.

“There is no reason for the town to be preparing for litigation and at the same time preparing for the hearing of this appeal,” Williams said.

Board member David Fingerhut argued against Williams’ statements during the meeting.

“I can’t agree to that,” Fingerhut said. “I think it is incredibly likely that whatever happens in the nuisance case the court is not going to touch the LMO issue. They are going to send it down to us. I think this body needs to do its duty and decide this appeal.”

Fisher has said he will start losing money soon as tenants vacate a $1 million commercial property he owns adjacent to ArborNature. He said the tenants pay $6,000 a month and are bothered by grinding and shaking from the company.

“You can’t even think when the grinding is going on,” Fisher said. “The ground shakes when trees are dropped and there is a beeping from trucks backing up.”

ArborNature attorneys have argued that town officials have repeatedly authorized the grinding of trees on the property.

Owners of ArborNature denied comment following the board’s decision Monday.

The appeal hearing for ArborNature will take place at 1 p.m. Sept. 26 at Town Hall, 1 Town Center Court.

Teresa Moss: 843-706-8152, @TeresaIPBG

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