Stopping Them from Getting Away with Murder… Tree Edition

Paraphrasing…

Why do you let developers commit wholesale murder of trees? Much of this destruction is totally unnecessary. The town should have better oversight over tree protection on tear-down sites…

I agree…

A challenge the Town has (or an local jurisdiction in the state) is that we cannot exceed the explicitly delegated authority from the state of Virginia (this is unlike Maryland, DC or other states). This plays out in many ways, land use, zoning, etc. but I will address tree canopy issue with this response. The state code states that a development must have 20% tree canopy within 20 years. The Town has be working with our state legislators (Keem and Peterson) to move that to 20% tree canopy in 10 years…and it has been repeated killed in legislative committees. Also, there is no delegated authority for significant tree preservation like DC has…another topic DOA in Richmond.

What has the Town done…well we have NOT thrown up our arms about it. A number of members of the Town’s Community Enhancement Commission (CEC) with experience in the field working with the Town arborist rewrote the planting list for trees/shrubs and their growth rates over time in the context of various best practices. So, what did this do…it effectively means that to get to the 20%/20 years requirement builders need to plant or save more.

What else…The Town arborist reviews all the site plans for new development and road projects. Where there are trees that are unlikely to survive construction due to impact on the root zone or diseased they are allowed to be removed…others are marked to be saved. (for the Follin Lane project I walked my frontage with Town staff and discussed trees, embankment slope and sidewalk location to save trees, this was well prior to my current role with the Town). The are other cases where lot regrading due to low lying ground will kill the root systems (Mashie Dr./Maple Ave. is an example). Proposed planting plan and schedule in the site plan has to be approved by the Town arborist.

In addition, the Town has street tree planting plan that they work thru and provide to developers for their frontages that put ornamental trees under the power lines and canopy trees elsewhere, so there aren’t trees hacked up by the power company. Lastly, the CEC has on-going education efforts about native plants and invasive species and sponsors work days at Town parks to remove invasives.

We can always improve inspections and other elements, so if you see anything that seems amiss on a development site, please report it… that Town’s app is great because you can include a picture and it goes directly into the tracking system (see here for download).