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Does New Montgomery County Tree Removal Law Fail to See the Forest for the Trees?

Takoma Park Patch reader: The legislation and costs to homeowners are 'absolute insanity.'

A small tornado took down trees along Norbeck Road in Rockville on June 13, 2013. Photo Credit: Tiffany Arnold.
A small tornado took down trees along Norbeck Road in Rockville on June 13, 2013. Photo Credit: Tiffany Arnold.

Takoma Park is “widely known as ‘Azalea City,’” but also has been designated a “Tree City, USA,” by The Arbor Day Foundation.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that recent news that a new law requiring Montgomery County residents and business owners to pay between $750 and $3,750 to replant new trees when they cut down old ones drew some pointed comments from Takoma Park Patch readers.

Barbara said:

“PEPCO has already deforested most of Montgomery county and now the council wants homeowners to have to pay! Ridiculous. Praise to the two who had sense enough to vote against this.”

Sammi said: 

“This is absolute insanity. If I need to cut down a tree that is unsafe, there is no sane reason to be penalized more than I already will be by the cost of removal. I have two diseased oaks on my property that I planted over twenty years ago. Let me get this right-----it will cost me $1,500 to remove them??? And that's just the County's cut. Time to move to a place where people in charge are not certifiable.”

Montgomery County Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park was one of two council members to vote against the legislation. The other—Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park called the measure “unnecessary legislation,” The Gazette reported

The rules for tree-chopping in Takoma Park’s city limits are a bit different—but it’ll still cost you to take down a tree in the city.

So what do you think? Is the County Council’s three-for-one reforestation plan a smart move to maintain the county’s canopy? When it comes to cost, does the new law fail to see the forest for the trees? Tell us in the comments.

Robert Curry August 04, 2013 at 05:10 PM
I find such legislation to be asinine, as many trees are definite HAZARDS and should be removed for safety. In many cases trees should NOT be replaced, at least not with a similar tree in the same location, as doing so only perpetuates the hazard! Intelligently selected and located trees, kept properly trimmed and maintained, can be good, but trees for the sake of trees, without regard for consequences as/after they grow to adulthood, can be very BAD!
Barbie Rosenblatt August 05, 2013 at 08:39 AM
We must get rid of this law.
Jay Levy August 05, 2013 at 09:26 AM
While there is inherently nothing wrong about a requirement to replace a tree, in a more sane world, government would have plenty of money to assist with that requirement. Unfortunately, today, we live in a country where the government is willing to pay $300 million each for construction of hundreds, if not thousands, of a version of a new warplane, the F35. It seems that the protection of nature comes far down the list of priorities while "defense," including that of our wasteful way of life, always comes first.
p e i August 10, 2013 at 09:30 AM
yet another attack on property rights and plain old common sense . . a bunch of jack asses trying to figure out how to stand out/make a name for themselves..by "submitting legislation " oh please! bag tax, over burdensome regulations,fees,fines,permits, dietary guidelines.... how about govern-ing...provide for the common defense( okaaay jay?)-i realize its a federalie issue-- provide an environment suitable for conducting free market capitalism, protect the order o0f our society and then...butt- out!
Mary August 10, 2013 at 10:06 AM
Maryland is out of control!!!!!!!!
Ken Sanford August 10, 2013 at 01:04 PM
And they are going to enforce this HOW?? your friendly neighborhood scofflaw
Arlene Bruhn August 12, 2013 at 07:46 AM
It has been observed that new tree laws in Montgomery County will require residents and business owners to pay between $750 and $3,750 to replant new trees "when they cut down old ones." Unfortunately,this statement is inaccurate, and several comments that it elicited are predictably off the mark. I contributed over many months to the writing of the street tree bill, and so I will comment on that legislation. The inaccuracy appears to stems from an assumption that an old tree is a diseased tree, that there is something wrong with an old tree. An "old" tree is not necessarily a diseased tree. People sometimes want to cut down old trees, believing they are defective or that that old trees are more or less useless In any case, it is important to distinguish between an old tree, a diseased tree, and a hazardous tree. It is a sign of the times that most persons know little about how trees grow or how to evaluate their health. They often believe that when a tree has a dead branch or rotting limb, the entire tree should be removed. Some people believe that a tree that is leaning or asymmetrical is necessarily a hazard and should be removed. This is false. To understand common misconceptions about trees, see: http://www.tiptoparborists.com/articles/20-tree-care-tree-service-myths/ Please understand. This legislation is not about making the Count look pretty. It's about trees are workhorses, as part of the County's infrastructure. When citizens cut down healthy, viable trees along the ROW, they will be required to replace them, The State requires replacement, but many people did not heed the State law. The County now requires replacement. The trees may be young or old, but if they are healthy at the start of construction or when a removal is made, there will be a replacement fee. The goal is to retain and restore tree canopy, the leafy part of the tree that provides shade, slows downpours, provides windbreaks, etc.. That canopy has value. It needs to be kept in good condition. Please see Dan Burden's article "Urban Street Trees -- 22 Benefits " The County has an interest in the ROW. The trees that grow there are County assets. This area is not under the control of the abutting property owners. For reasons of public safety involving passage of traffic along the streets, damage to sidewalks, etc., a ROW permit requirement for tree removal and stump grinding is necessary. Most street trees are removed in association with some sort of construction or landscaping. In practice, it is relatively rare that citizens remove a street tree that is hazardous, and it is expected that the County will continue to remove hazardous trees along the roadside.. Please note that citizens are not charged fees for requesting the County evaluate a tree they believe to be in decline or hazardous. There is no requirement in the legislation that a tree wherever located be replaced in kind (species) by a citizen. The County is committed to the concept of "right tree, right place." You may wish to read more about trees by exploring the Conservation Montgomery or Casey Trees websites. Arlene Bruhn Conservation Montgomery
p e i August 12, 2013 at 03:54 PM
ok arlene.. thats all fine i suppose ..i like trees ... for many of the reasons you stated...and i am sure that its often the case that laws like this originate from some good intentions... im sure i can safely say that most people here care about trees ,,the environment ,,others health the cleansing effect that all foliage has on our atmosphere...also the idea that old trees are even better or at least equally as important -and beautiful -as younger ones.... lets not just hack em down like hack wacky lumber jacks... okay... but the main point being made here has to do with property rights.... and how does the county/state/city/fed/homeowners assoc. apply... it is a property rights issue... thats the point ... it is yet another..ANOTHER.. power grab....an immoral/illegal one
Albert Van Thournout August 19, 2013 at 09:20 AM
I never thought the day would come when I would agree with Ronald Reagan: "Government is the problem." Montgomery County is unfortunately not alone in its capacity to elect dunces who immediately become self-important and demonstrate that with the idiocy of their legislative proposals. The time for an old fashioned Tea Party, the likes of Boston Harbor in 1773! A few tarring and featherings might bring some sense to these people. Here are some suggestions: How about helping homeowners identify diseased trees on their property? How about giving homeowners a sufficent period of time to address the removal of diseased tree? How about offering homeowners trees that they themselves could plant? (There used to be a state program encouraging the planting of trees.) Montgomery County and other counties plant trees; the state plants trees. Does anyone attend to them afterward? No. They are never watered, not once in their period of adjustment. Thus many are lost. What a waste. And for that homeowners must pay a penalty, homeowners who are the most likely to care for a tree they themselves plant. Get Real
p e i August 20, 2013 at 03:53 PM
yep.. he also said " as govmnt. increases,freedom decreases"..or was that someone else? either way..its true.. and this monkey county power grab proves it.
p e i September 05, 2013 at 01:31 PM
i guess the kooks see that there's no way to win this by using facts or the truth..so... they just dropped out of the debate... i suspect they're behind closed doors plotting yet another way to rob us of our freedoms or our earnings... tax-a-u-tax-a-me tax the air-tax-a-tree.
Albert Van Thournout February 01, 2014 at 02:18 PM
Arlene, Thank you very much for your commentary.

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