Montgomery County is moving to tighten its rules for cutting down trees, but one municipality says its laws are just fine as they are, thank you all the same.
The tiny village of Martin’s Additions — with 963 residents as of 2012 — has exempted itself from two county tree laws intended to keep people from felling trees during construction without replacing them. The village council voted in March to exempt the Chevy Chase-area municipality from the county’s Roadside Tree Protection and Tree Canopy Conservation laws.
The County Council passed two laws, which took effect in March, intended to preserve trees along county roads and on private property. One law requires people to get permits before trimming or removing trees along county roads.
Another law applies to work on private property if a certain amount of land is disturbed. In those cases, each shade tree that’s removed must be replaced with three more trees, or the person doing the work must pay a fee into a mitigation fund to plant more trees.
“What it meant was the money goes back to the county and not the municipality, and that’s kind of at the heart of it,” said Jean Sperling, village manager, in explaining the village’s move to exempt itself from the laws.
According to minutes from a Village Council meeting in February, there was some confusion when the bills were being considered by county officials over whether the regulations would apply to municipalities.
Sperling asked county officials whether they would consider amending the tree canopy bill, which applies to private property, to require reforestation in the municipality where trees were being cut down, according to the council meeting’s minutes. She was told that the law was not going to apply to the town, but in fact, municipalities that do not want the law to apply within their borders must exempt themselves from it, according to a discussion reported in the meeting minutes.
The council passed an ordinance exempting Martin’s Additions from the tree bills. It says that state and village laws and programs already promote tree canopy conservation within the town, and says the county bills “would create an undue burden on village residents for which there is no counterbalancing benefit to village residents.”
The tree canopy bill, which requires three shade trees to be planted for every one taken down during certain building projects, would force many village residents to pay into a mitigation fund because they would not have room for all the trees on their property, the ordinance says. The county law does not, however, require those funds to be used to plant trees in the jurisdiction where the payment was received, the ordinance says.
According to the ordinance, state law allows municipalities to exempt themselves from county legislation. Martin’s Additions has already exempted itself from several sections of the Montgomery County Code.
The county tree laws took effect March 1.