061517 Roads: County asks DOT to move roundabout to save tree
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Roads: County asks DOT to move roundabout to save tree

Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County has asked the state Department of Transportation to move a proposed roundabout on Waverly Road to save an oak tree. But the agency is reluctant to embrace a plan that will require obtaining additional right of way, officials said.

A roundabout at the intersection of Waverly Road and Petigru Drive was the topic of a DOT forum last week. The county put the intersection on its list of improvements to be funded through the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study. Either a roundabout or realigning the mismatched ends of Petigru Drive will require cutting an oak tree on the corner, according to the project manager. That produced an outcry from the community.

County Administrator Sel Hemingway said one draft of the roundabout plan put the tree within the center circle. “I posed the question of why it couldn’t remain in the circle,” he said. “They talked about it being a safety issue.”

When he suggested moving the roundabout away from the oak, the agency cited the need for additional right of way. “The cost of the right of way wasn’t so much the issue as the imposition on property owners,” he said. The project is estimated to cost $1.3 million.

State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch is “trying to determine whether the right of way warrants pushback,” he said. “I don’t like getting involved in the county’s business, but the county isn’t having a lot of success.” He chairs the transportation study policy committee.

County Council Member Steve Goggans said DOT has also talked about reallocating the roundabout funds to another project. “I have a problem with that,” he said. “The intersection is going to need some long-term improvement.” A technology park is planned around the Mercom office on Petigru. New housing developments are underway in the area that will increase traffic.

Goggans also wants to get an arborist to look at the oak to make sure it is healthy and, if so, that it remains that way during any construction. “The bark is pretty gnarled, but the tips of the branches look healthy,” he said. Goldfinch agreed that’s an important consideration.

The tree trunk is filled with nails used to tack up signs over the years. Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, notes that is a violation of the county tree ordinance. “Hammering nails into a tree is illegal,” he said. “You’re not supposed to put signs on them anyway.”

DOT is taking comments on the project until June 21. Go to scdot.org.

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