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Homeowners Protest Removal Of Trees In Bethesda Neighborhood

By Aaron Kraut

Wednesday - 6/4/2014, 2:45pm  ET

Oldchester Road residents protest a homebuilder's removal of trees in the neighborhood Oldchester Road residents protest a homebuilder's removal of trees in the neighborhood Oldchester Road residents protest a homebuilder's removal of trees in the neighborhood Oldchester Road residents protest a homebuilder's removal of trees in the neighborhood Oldchester Road residents protest a homebuilder's removal of trees in the neighborhood

A group of Bethesda homeowners is protesting one developer’s removal of trees to build new homes.

The developer, a celebrated Bethesda-based homebuilder, says the trees she took down were unhealthy and the removal was cleared by Montgomery County.

Cathy Bendor and about 15 neighbors along Oldchester Road began putting up signs calling out builder Bethesda Too for recent tree removals, including two trees that were removed on Wednesday morning at the corner of Oldchester Road and Wilson Lane.

“Builders ‘Bethsda Too’ SHAME ON YOU!” reads one sign on Wilson Lane. “Developers: Stop Killing Our Trees,” reads another.

Bendor said it’s her understanding that Bethesda Too President Carole Sherman has bought three properties in the neighborhood and has cut down more than 10 trees on about two blocks. Residents made the signs and contacted various reporters this week, before the two trees were removed Wednesday.

“This is a neighborhood that has had a beautiful canopy of large trees. The trees are obviously healthy for the environment and have a lot of benefits,” Bendor said. “They are also beautiful and provide shade and privacy. This is part of what attracted many of the people to the neighborhood.”

Sherman lives in Bethesda and has been lauded for her home designs. She’s also garnered recognition for being one of the few women in the country who own their own homebuilding company.

She said the two large trees cut down Wednesday were “half dead,” and would have likely come down because of the new construction planned on the lot. She said a Montgomery County arborist agreed.

The loss of tree canopy because of rapid “mansionization” in Bethesda neighborhoods has been on the county’s radar for a long time. On March 1, a law went into effect that requires property owners who remove trees for large projects to replace those trees or pay into a county fund that will go toward purchasing new ones.

During the debate over the Tree Canopy Protection bill, Department of Environmental Protection staff used overhead before and after images to show tree loss in Bethesda neighborhoods where homes have been torn down and bigger homes built on the property.

On Monday, Councilmember Hans Riemer and County Executive Isiah Leggett announced a plan to plant 100,000 new shade trees using money from the fund set up by the Tree Canopy Protection law.