2013 | News

Reaction: Tree Canopy Conservation Bill

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Our piece last week on the Tree Canopy Conservation bill before the County Council got strong reaction from one member of the building industry.

Robert Kaufman, director of government affairs for the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry, said the proposal wouldn’t actually protect tree canopy and would act as an unfair tax against property owners who disturb ground underneath a tree, even if that tree remains.

Many builders, including some who help Bethesda homeowners add additions or build bigger homes on infill lots, are against the proposal. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has pushed the bill with the main selling point that new development patterns – supersized homes on infill lots in older neighborhoods – require new tree legislation.

Kaufman said builders do support “setting reasonable canopy goals for home sites and allowing builders to meet these goals by saving or planting trees on-site.”

He pointed to similar measures from the government of Athens-Clarke County, Ga., as an example of a tree bill builders would support.

“We can agree that canopy is a reasonable quality of life issue and that we can find a way to replace or add canopy when we make improvements,” Kaufman wrote in an email. “If you look at the Athens/Clarke County tree bill in Georgia, they set reasonable canopy goals and publish a chart that lists the types of trees to plant and how many trees to plant in order to meet the long term canopy goals on each lot.  Since we know that homebuyers like trees, builders are supportive of the idea that we can save or plant trees ON-SITE to meet reasonable goals.  While making improvements, we also remove dangerous, unsightly and invasive trees and replace them with healthy, young trees appropriate for urban living.”

County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) chairs the Transportation & Environment Committee charged with working on the bill. In the last worksession on the issue on Feb. 25, Berliner asked Montgomery County Department of Environment staff to provide detailed comparisons to the tree legislation in Clarke County and neighboring Fairfax County.

Meanwhile, conservationists are promoting a petition in support of both the Tree Canopy Protection bill and a companion piece of legislation that would give the county control of regulating tree removal in right-of-ways. The petition has almost 950 supporters.

The Committee’s third worksession on the bill is scheduled for April 1.