The battle over a Montgomery County bill that would require builders to pay a fee for trees removed during home tear-down projects is showing no signs of slowing down.
Environmental advocates for the county-backed Tree Canopy Conservation bill are distributing a “Fact vs. Fiction” sheet to County Councilmembers they say dispels misinformation from members of the home building industry. The sheet is attached at the bottom of this post.
A group of builders have joined together to start a campaign called Renewing Montgomery which includes a website and an alternate bill to the fee requirements before the County Council. The website asks stakeholders to “learn how pending legislation can impact your property rights.”
Conservation Montgomery’s Caren Madsen said builders have been “peddling erroneous information.”
From the Fact vs. Fiction piece, distributed by a coalition of environmental groups called Trees Matter In Montgomery:
1. Fiction: These bills represent a severe infringement on basic private property rights.
FACT: These bills are vital to the future of our County and our children. The trees are written to ensure the continued robust presence of a vital County resource – its trees. The tree bills do not eliminate or impact in any way a property owner or developer’s right to cut down a trees when the tree must be removed. …
10. Fiction: County regulations for storm water management, driveways, and sediment control are the primary reasons trees are removed for home improvements. If these bills are passed, the County will charge a fee to remove the trees necessary to comply with their regulations.
FACT: While trees may at times need to be removed to install stormwater devices, this is by no means a hard rule. The number and size of stormwater management devices a builder needs to install is directly proportional to the size of the home being constructed. The County does not dictate how big the house must be; only that it cannot exceed a certain limit. If a developer wishes to build to the maximum extent possible to maximize profit, building costs for stormwater management, materials, tree removals and other costs naturally increase. On the other hand, if a developer builds a small home or simply renovates an existing structure without changing its footprint, it is likely that tree removals, if any, would be reduced or even unnecessary. These are all choices that a developer makes within the limits of what a given lot will hold, not the County.
12. Fiction: If there is an identifiable concern, then the County Council and County Executive need to completely scrap these bills, start over again, and work with ALL concerned citizens of Montgomery County to develop a reasonable and balanced solution.
FACT: Both these bills have been in play and discussion for over five years with interested stakeholders. Discussions have been lengthy, detailed and drafts of both tree bills have been vetted extensively. There is no need to turn back the clock. Trees continue to be needlessly removed and are not being replaced, and this situation is must be addressed.
The Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and the Environment Committee is scheduled to take up the bill at 9:30 a.m. on July 8, when it hopes to make a recommendation to the full Council.