Contractor Clear-Cutting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Contractor says he followed rules before clear-cutting

By Rupert Howell

Batesville Contractor Bob Shepard this week defended his position concerning the recent clearing land of trees on Shamrock Drive (mistakingly reported as Stonehenge Drive) in a development owned by long-time Batesville businessman Bob Dunlap.

While city leaders were continuing to voice their displeasure last Thursday with the recent clearing, Shepard said he followed protocol by going to the City Planning Office and was told he didn’t need a permit for clearing, but did need a permit for grading.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“At no time was he told by our office that he could clear cut,” Code Office Administrator Pam Comer told city board members last week.

Comer said Monday that conversations were “misinterpreted.”

Shepard says he asked for a clearing permit so he could have topographical work completed in order to get a grading plan before moving dirt. He said he was told he didn’t need a permit for clearing.

According to Shepard, the trees were being cleared so that topographical work could be done for a grading or draining permit. He explained that land contours are determined by satellite through global positioning systems and trees would hamper readings.

It is the city’s contention that a  Mississippi Department of Environmental Quaility (MDEQ) grading permit should be in place before work is begun under new subdivision regulations that went into effect last May. Involved in that permit are the contractor’s engineering plans as well as a storm water permit from the state.

On Monday of this week Shepard produced a burn permit issued June 12 by the City of Batesville Fire Department for burning brush in a pit that he used to rid the area of brush from the trees. It expired June 19.

Shepard also explained that he continued to work at the request of the landowner until he received a “stop work” notice from the city a week after he was originally asked not to cut any more trees by the city’s mayor. He explained he would have ceased work on the property earlier if the owner had stopped him or a “stop work” notice had been received.

He also said that trees were being removed from the site Monday, June 2 before Mayor Jerry Autrey talked to him on Friday, June 6.

Ninety percent of the trees were already down by then, according to Shepard.

Under  new requirements, you must have an existing topo map and a proposed topo map for permitting.This was the first development since new rules were adopted in May.

“This is a heck of one to learn on,” Alderman Bill Dugger mumbled.

Alderman Rufus Manley made it known that trees had been cut at a proposed construction site at Patton Lane and Stage Coach Road.

Asked by Alderman Stan Harrison last Thursday if the code enforcement office had any suggestions so that the event wouldn’t happen again, Comer responded, “We’re working on them.”

Comer said Monday that the city was awaiting Shepard’s engineer and the state storm water permit to proceed so that the project could again get under way.

Plans for the development of that area are approximately 17 years old and allowed for apartments in that area.

According to Shepard, the property’s owner was getting the site ready for sale and  obtaining construction plans for that property would be premature.