County Executive Isiah Leggett last year introduced a Tree Canopy Conservation bill that would force private property owners in small lots to pay a still-to-be-determined fee for lost canopy into a fund that Montgomery would then use to plant new trees.
Now, the County Council is wrangling with both sides to find a compromise.
Members of the building industry say the county shouldn’t legislate tree protection on private property, that they already avoid removing trees because of associated costs and that existing stormwater management requirements make protecting trees extremely difficult.
Some conservationists say the bill doesn’t go far enough, that replacing mature trees with new ones still takes away from the canopy, which everybody agrees is important for environmental and economic reasons.
Sounds like a typical suburban debate: should green interests or building/economic interests win out? The article doesn’t say this but I imagine there might be some old-timer versus newcomer aspects to this debate. If you have lived in the suburb for some time, trees are a good thing. They are not only green, they look better, suggest neighborhoods have stability, and contribute to higher housing values. If you are a builder or involved in real estate or want to move into places like Bethesda, you might want to pay less attention to trees and introduce new housing options.
One interesting note in the debate: there was some conversation about what percentage of tree canopy is desirable in a community. One pro-housing advocate suggested Bethesda already has more tree cover than much of the county. Just how much tree cover is necessary? Is a certain percentage related to housing values?