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Snyder agrees to settlement for tree cutting on property

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005

Washington Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder agreed to pay $37,000 for cutting down 130 trees along a protected stretch of the C&O Canal at his River Road estate, according to a settlement announced last week.

Snyder and his wife, Tanya, signed the settlement agreement with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission on Aug. 25. The agreement stems from a Dec. 28, 2004, citation against Snyder for violating the county’s forest conservation laws in cutting down more than 55,000 square feet of federally protected forest on his Potomac property near the canal in June 2004.

‘‘I hope others who live along the canal take heed,” Planning Board Chairman Derick P. Berlage said in a written statement Sept. 7. ‘‘Violate the law and you will be held accountable.”

By signing the agreement, Snyder waived a public hearing and any right to future appeals of the citation.

The $37,000 will go into a forest conservation bank used to purchase conservation easements to protect other forested land in the county, according to the 15-page settlement agreement.

Snyder is also to immediately reforest the area and post a $45,000 security bond to cover the replanting costs. The bond will be returned to Snyder after two years if he meets the terms of the agreement.

‘‘I really believe that Park and Planning has gotten the best deal for the C&O Canal in the long run,” said Ginny Barnes, president of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association. ‘‘The money is inconsequential. What’s important is the acreage they got. That’s the real meat of the agreement.”

Snyder and any future owners of the property are also prohibited from building or cutting down any trees on the property without written permission from the Planning Board, the agreement states. He also agreed to place an additional five acres of his property in a permanent conservation easement.

‘‘So for essentially destroying or clear-cutting about one-and-a-half acres in the first place, they have obtained eight acres of preserved forest in perpetuity,” Barnes said.

U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington, who established a community task force to address the issues raised by the tree cutting, said the group will continue to meet.

The task force will continue to study ‘‘what lessons were learned on this particular case with the Snyder property and use that as a springboard to take a broader view of what needs to be done,” Van Hollen said. ‘‘I don’t know what leverage Park and Planning had and I have no reason to second guess that settlement. I think one of the things the task force will do is to look and see if Park and Planning and the National Parks Service have adequate enforcement tools.”

Park and Planning first began investigating the property in January after learning Snyder had cut the trees, despite a 2001 letter from the county informing him that it was prohibited.

Both the county and National Park Service hold scenic easements that protect the woodlands along the Potomac River. While the park service issued Snyder a special permit in November to remove 130 mature trees on the protected portion of his estate, the county did not.

Staff writer Peggy Vaughn contributed to this report.

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