When it comes to trees, the Town of Chevy Chase is hearing it from both sides.
There are people who feel the Town’s tree protection ordinance isn’t enough to protect its lush tree canopy. Others say the ordinance is too strict, that it discourages the removal or pruning of trees that pose danger in storms such as last June’s derecho.
To make clear the Town’s policies, Town manager Todd Hoffman and arborist Dr. Tolbert Feather on Wednesday presented stats and trends on tree loss and replacement on public right-of-way and private property.
Comments from the roughly 25 residents at the meeting focused mostly on Pepco tree pruning practices around electrical wires.
One said she was much more concerned with three- or four-day power outages and falling trees during storms than protecting a tree canopy that has actually grown, at least on public space, in the Town since 2009.
Mayor Pat Burda said the Town Council will hold a worksession in November or December around input from the meeting.
From 2009 into 2012, the Town removed 139 rotting or damaged large trees from right-of-way and other public spaces and planted 233 trees to replace those. The average annual budget for planting was around $25,000, for maintenance was $170,000 and for additional services was $23,000.
Any private homeowner who wishes to remove a tree more than 24 inches in circumference must apply for a tree removal permit. Since July 2009, the Town received 232 removal applications, which can include multiple trees on the same property.
It approved all but 25. Of those 25, 16 were appealed to a review board and 14 were approved for removal upon review. One was denied. The other appeal was withdrawn.
Hoffman also reported that Feather has conducted 234 free consultations with private homeowners since 2009 as part of a Town program that lets residents know if they have problematic trees on their property.
In the June derecho, the Town lost 14 large canopy trees, five of which were on private property. Five trees, four of them from the public right-of-way, fell on homes in the storm.