Developing land the ‘green-friendly’ way

It’s a question often heard by Shelby County residents. Why must developers clear every tree and every shrub until all that remains is a scraped piece of land?

That complaint has even caused one community, Helena, to consider passing a tree ordinance restricting where and when developers can remove trees.

Anthony Joseph, president of Joseph Lumber Company in Columbiana, believes in a &uot;green-friendly&uot;


In fact, Joseph has opened a new company, JLC Environmental Green Friendly Land Clearing.

The traditional way of clearing land, Joseph said, is a costly and lengthy process.

This usually includes, he said, using bulldozers or other heavy machines to push a brush pile. Then, depending on current burn laws, the developer sets fire to the pile. Once the fire burns itself out, the stumps and wood which would not burn are hauled off to a local landfill or tub grinder.

Joseph, who is the developer of the Tara and Austin Ridge subdivisions near Chelsea, said he has always hated the &uot;traditional&uot; practices of pre-development.

&uot;Normal is trucking, hauling, scraping and burning. It just wastes the trees. I’m not into that. I used to be,&uot; Joseph said. &uot;That is the old traditional way of working.&uot;

Joseph said several years ago he approached John Heekin, president of FECON, a Cincinnati-based equipment manufacturer, about finding a different way to clear land for development.

Joseph said he explained his views to Heekin and asked the manufacturer about the feasability of building a better mousetrap, so to speak.

Joseph’s solution was to have the manufacturer build a grinding head, also known as a hydro cutter, to mount on a front end of a track loader.

&uot;Four years later he showed me exactly what I told him,&uot; Joseph said. &uot;He asked, ‘will you buy one now?’ I said ‘yes.’&uot;

The equipment is called a Hydroclear and allows developers to remove precisely the trees they want to and leave the others.

In fact, the Hydroclear can cut trees up to 10 inches in diameter and grind them into a mulch which remains as blanket cover for erosion control, Joseph said.

Joseph said grinding the selected trees and undergrowth into mulch also protects the land from runoff.

So for about the last six months, Joseph and his employees have been demonstrating their green-friendly tool to local developers and even some county officials.

In addition, Joseph is promoting the Hydroclear on his website,, and giving a recently produced video to whoever will take one.

They have even done several land clearing projects.

Among those projects are the airport in Sylacauga and a new development, The Pursell Golf Course, being built near Childersburg.

The golf course project, Joseph said, started off as just a demonstration, but once the developer saw the Hydroclear in action, he decided to use the equipment.

Joseph said the Hydroclear did the project in less time and on a smaller budget.

&uot;Trucking, hauling, scraping, buring…this eliminates the need for expensive procedure.&uot;

&uot;As we get more populated we need to be more concerned with the environment. All of us need to look at safer practices,&uot; he said.

Shelby County Environmental Manager Robert Kelley is one of several county officials who have seen the Hydroclear in action. Kelley said he applauds Joseph and others like him for their efforts to respect the environment. He said leaving top soil and reducing runoff are the keys to reducing erosion.

&uot;I’d love to see most &045; if not all &045;

developers use something like this where they can,&uot; Kelley said. &uot;Like anything else, it’s new to a lot of developers.&uot;

Joseph said the Hydroclear is not just a green-friendly approach but one that is aesthetic as well.

&uot;You want to groom what you got,&uot; he said. &uot;That is where we are effective, taking what Mother Nature has and developing that piece of ground to the fullest.&uot;