Area home builders opposed to an Isiah Leggett-backed tree canopy protection bill have proposed their own measure for saving tear-down home properties from tree canopy loss.
Builders have formed Renewing Montgomery, a communications initiative to protest the tree canopy bill as proposed by the county executive and Department of Environmental Protection. The group also offers an alternative, though that alternative leads with claims that the county hasn't proved there's tree canopy loss in the first place:
Tree Canopy Bill 35-12 was introduced without including comments from the building industry so it is flawed beyond the ability to amend it. There has never been any study or data that demonstrates there is a problem that requires legislation. The most recent MNCPPC study shows our canopy is thriving by any standard. Why rush to this far reaching legislation that is based on anecdotal evidence. Renewing Montgomery has a better proposal.
Environmental Protection officials have used overhead imagery of Bethesda neighborhoods where “mansionization” is common to show the loss of tree canopy over the last decade. In April, Leggett said the legislation those officials have been arguing for in front of the County Council's Transportation & Environment Committee is fair.
Renewing Montgomery's proposal includes incentives for property owners to replant trees on the property that suffered tree loss, which the group says will avoid devaluing properties that have trees and could also be potential tear-down home sites. Renewing Montgomery also says its proposal would increase the county's tree canopy be requiring replanting on properties even without trees.
On Monday, the Committee was not able to reach a recommendation on the bill or discuss Renewing Montgomery's proposal. The bill as proposed would require builders or land owners in residential lots to pay a fee for lost canopy during large home addition or home rebuilding projects.
Committee Chair and Bethesda Councilmember Roger Berliner said he hopes to reach a recommendation at a July 7 meeting.
Builders have argued the county's stringent stormwater management regulations make avoiding damage to trees while building a difficult process.
Environmentalists, who in April celebrated the bill by planting a tree at Bethesda Library with Leggett, say it won't directly hurt property owners. Instead, they say it's directed at builders who do work on properties that have been sold for the tear-down projects that have become prevalent in close-in residential neighborhoods.
“Not only are we having what we call mansionization, in addition to all the sediment challenges we have, we lose the trees,” Leggett said. “You simply can not easily replace those trees that are lost. We must act now to protect and restore the valuable community resources that we believe are in this bill.”
Photos via Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection