Developer fined over buffer laws

28 10 2008

 

Rob Pavey | The Augusta Chronicle

A Burke County developer will pay fines totaling $50,025 over stream buffer violations at an Ogeechee River subdivision, according to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.

In an Oct. 8 consent order, the developer — Brannen & Son Inc. — also agreed to restore vegetation along the river where land-clearing activities at The River Bluff subdivision affected the required 25-foot stream buffer.

A citizen’s Jan. 22 complaint about tree cutting in the buffer zone was referred to EPD, the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers, which ultimately issued a cease-and-desist order over violations of wetlands issues.

The case was complicated because logging had been conducted on the 37-acre site prior to the creation of the subdivision, which includes 29 riverfront lots.

“There were buffer encroachments during the logging, and once they started development, there were other buffer encroachments as well,” said Jeff Darley, the interim district manager of EPD’s East Central District office in Augusta.

Although there are certain exemptions to the buffer laws for timber activities, those exemptions do not apply to other development.

“During logging, if you encroach on a stream buffer, you are subject to a three-year moratorium on development,” he said. “The rule was designed to prevent developers from clearing the buffer through logging and then starting a development in there.”

In a Sept. 3 letter, Charles Brannen told EPD he was not using the timber exemptions to circumvent buffer requirements.

“There was no intent of the developer to exploit the rules. This was the condition the tract was in when purchased.”

Consequently, EPD agreed to waive the three-year moratorium and will allow the subdivision’s progress to continue, Mr. Darley said.

The buffer requirements are designed to protect watersheds from silt and dirt that can wash into rivers and streams if land is disturbed too close to their banks.

Maintaining a vegetative buffer also provides a shaded canopy that prevents excessive warming of the water

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