This happened on Facebook after the Gazette ran a story about two Takoma homeowners who wanted to install solar collectors on their roof. To do so, however, they needed to remove a tree that didn't look too healthy anyway.
Jeremy Arias reported on July 7:
"At the heart of the matter is a decades-old silver maple growing directly in front of the Earles' house at 231 Grant Ave. While Patrick Earle has argued, among other things, that the tree is rotting internally and will soon present a safety hazard anyway, City Arborist Todd Bolton remains rooted in his stance that the massive maple is far from dead. Because the tree in question is defined by the city's code as an urban forest tree—it measures more than 24 inches in circumference at a height of four feet from the ground—it falls under the ordinance's protection, according to the city's code.
"It's not dead, it's not hazardous; he's choosing to remove it to put in his solar panels, and if you want to do that, there's a cost associated," Bolton said of the Earles' tree. "That's not my decision, that's not stuff I just made up; that's in the ordinance."
"Since Bolton did not classify the tree as a hazard, the ordinance states that the Earles need to either replace the tree or pay the city the "fair market value" of 23 replacement trees. Because of the tree's size—roughly 50 inches in circumference—the ordinance's formula dictates that the Earles would need to plant 23 replacement trees to make up for it.
"It seems completely unreasonable," Patrick Earle said.
He added that, according to the city, fair market value for 23 trees would cost him about $4,000 at $175 a tree, much more than the $2,000 estimates he's received from contacting private landscapers."
Earle's comments on his experience and recommendations for changes to the city's unforgiving tree ordinance make for interesting reading.
Earle tells me about (and sends along) arborist Todd Bolton's decision to "rate the trunk of my tree as a 3 on a 5-point scale. However, the table in section 12.12.100 of the Tree Code implies that if the trunk is severely hollow that the rating should be a "1". When the tree was cut down we discovered that the trunk was very hollow. One of the major branches that was leaning over power lines and my neighbor's house was dangerously hollow."
From the code:
12.12.100 (C) The basal area of the replacement trees, measured at caliper height, must be no less than a percentage of the total basal area of the tree to be removed, measured at 4 1/2' above the ground. The percentage is determined using the following health quality analysis rating scale.
5 or 4
3 or 2
Sound and solid
Sections of bark missing
Extensive bark loss and hollow
More than 6 inch year twig elongation
2 to 6 inch twig elongation
Less than 2 inch twig elongation
1 major or several minor limbs dead
2 or more major limbs dead
Normal pest presence
Moderate affliction or infestation
Severe affliction or infestation
Full and balanced
Full but unbalanced
Unbalanced and lacking a full crown
Over 30 years
5 to 30 years
Less than 5 years
After the article came out, my fellow Task Force on Env'l Action colleague Sat Jiwan Ikle-Khalsa wrote a sensible letter to the Gazette advocating a recommendation contained in our report that would establish colar co-ops on city buildings.
In any case, here's my exchange with Clay. She delivers a pithy, loaded statement, tries to reword it, and then declines to defend it and bows out of the conversation. Politicians in Takoma Park need to get thicker skin. Leather's out, so maybe recycled plastic bags?