Dear City Council,
J Dabney Peeples Design and The Collins Group operate primarily in the realm of private landscapes, and many of our projects lie within Greenville city limits. As designers and contractors of residential properties, we believe that tree preservation is both a public and a private concern, and that any limitations placed on individual homeowners should not be viewed as a burden or infringement on personal rights. The canopy trees of Greenville are a collective source of beauty, environmental benefit and community pride.
We consider it our responsibility to communicate to our clients the value of existing mature trees within their home landscapes and work together to preserve as many as possible, even with new construction. On this basis, we strongly disagree with both the current policy and the proposed amendment’s exemption of trees on private residences from protection. The gradual degradation of Greenville’s tree canopy by seemingly insignificant individual choices causes exponential damage to the city’s climate and particular damage to the atmosphere and economic desirability of a neighborhood.
Our firm’s goal is to create landscapes that will benefit posterity by planting as many future canopy trees as possible. Today’s newly installed oaks will provide shade for the next generation long after the red maples and crepe myrtles planted simply to meet a construction quota have slipped from memory.
It is a privilege for us to play the role of noble tree advocate in the private sector, but our reach is limited. Greenville desperately needs a stronger public ordinance that not only protects existing noble trees but also promotes positive growth of our city’s long-term canopy.
In the next revision of the tree ordinance, please vote to remove the exemption of private residential properties and include stronger language regarding the protection of current valuable trees. When a 1:1 replacement is not possible on a specific site, it is our opinion that Greenville should adopt the example of Atlanta and require a monetary contribution toward planting trees in other locations. Smaller caliper requirements for new plantings could be considered as a possibility for compromise if the monetary ramifications of requiring a greater number of new plantings is a point of concern. Finally, greater attention and resources must be given to enforcement if any of these policies are to have teeth.
It is a hopeful sign that this topic is even on the table for discussion, because the longer the problem of our shrinking tree canopy is ignored, the greater the effort will be required to address it. Greenville has the opportunity be a leader in tree protection and environmental policy for South Carolina, just as we provide a positive example in many other areas. We trust that you recognize the urgency of this issue and its integral importance to the attraction and sustainability of our city.
J Dabney Peeples Design & The Collins Group