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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
ArlingtonOpinionCommentary: Arlington must do more to stem tree loss

Commentary: Arlington must do more to stem tree loss

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For many years, with the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG) and others, the Arlington County Board has cited by-right construction rules and limits on local power by state law regarding residential construction and tree loss.

ATAG has engaged the county staff, the county manager and County Board, as well as many builders and owners, to save mature trees using persuasion and creative ideas as the only available tool. Unfortunately, more permissive land use and zoning, and the promise of high returns on investment, have boosted construction and tree removal.

Therefore, ATAG engaged the County Board at its Feb. 12 meeting to urge better enforcement of regulations governing tree preservation during residential construction.

We asked board members also to pursue new authorities/policies from Richmond to protect and improve Arlington’s tree canopy. We also supported neighbors who raised in a separate public comment deep concerns about an extreme clear-cut in their area: a new-home project that removed over 32,000 square feet of canopy and left nine neighbors vulnerable to severe flooding.

ATAG is lobbying for changes and seeks immediate direct action to:

• Conduct new tree-canopy and heat-island assessments;

• Seek/use delegated powers under the Dillon Rule, to include a tree-preservation ordinance;

• Step up enforcement of Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance and zoning rules, add more staff if needed and adopt meaningful penalties for violations of Resource Protection Area, setback, lot coverage, stormwater and canopy regulations;

• Look at recommendations prepared in November 2021 by the environmental-affairs committee of the Arlington County Civic Federation to protect residential trees, including steps on lot coverage and expanded setbacks; and

• Incorporate tree preservation as part of biophilia, sustainability and climate-change goals.

For more information, see the Website at www.arlingtontreeactiongroup.org or search Google for a short video on the Dover-Crystal tree removals, entitled “Arlington Chainsaw Massacre.”

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