Anniversary Open House Planned for August 27
Please plan to come and help us celebrate our anniversary as a countywide nonprofit organization along with our partner organizations. Find details and RSVP here.
Trees in the urban (built) areas add value to a community in terms of environmental services, health and livability. But they are subject to damage to their critical root zone from unintended consequences of parking construction equipment on the root area, overmulching and other damage.
Urban Tree Bill Closer to Council Introduction
After six months of discussions between stakeholders in the civic and environmental communities and the building industry, a group met with County Executive Isiah Leggett on July 11th to share ideas for potential legislation to protect more trees on individual lots in Montgomery County. Our board has recommended combining the best elements of the work group discussion draft with the best of the draft bill produced by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). For a full update on this activity, please visit this website. Our July 18th letter to the County Executive can be accessed here. Please continue to watch our website for updates. County Executive Leggett would like to finalize a bill and introduce legislation in the County Council before the Council goes into an August recess. We anticipate action on this legislation this fall. County residents will want to weigh in on this important legislation.
Pepco Tree Forum Held by Council Committee
The Council Transportation and Environment (T&E) Committee,
Tree-trimming or tree butchery? Residents around the county are outraged by excessive cutting by Pepco.
chaired by Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-District 1) met on July 18th to hear from Pepco officials, county and state arborists, and stakeholders on the topic of Pepco tree cutting in the county. Conservation Montgomery was invited to participate on one of the panels.
Pepco is requesting to increase its level of access to private property so that the utility can trim trees on home lots. For background, the Council T&E Committee packet can be found here.
Our organization has heard from residents throughout the county about excessive tree cutting by Pepco crews. While there is a need to trim around power lines, many gouged U-shaped trees indicate that the utility has gone too far. Trees that are not maintained certainly play a role in outages but this does not explain the sunny-day outages when there are no high winds and falling limbs. A December 2010 Washington Post analysis revealed that faulty equipment and infrastructure that Pepco failed to update plays a role as a primary reason for power outages.
"It is on those sunny days that your company is judged and it's rated as one of the poorest performing utilities," said Council T&E Committee Chair Roger Berliner. Berliner expressed skepticism when Pepco officials told the committee that over 600 county residents had denied them access to their private property when the utility approached homeowners for permission to trim trees. "I don't believe citizens are to blame for poor services when we are long overdue for improvements that Pepco needs to make," Berliner said.
Councilmember Marc Elrich, who has monitored the issue of excessive tree trimming and is considering legislation to limit Pepco's tree-trimming activity, said Pepco customers have lost confidence in the company.
"Homeowners see what you're doing to trees on our streets and think, 'My God, if this is what they do, what will they do if they have access to my property?' " said Elrich. "You haven't gained anyone's confidence." Read the Washington Post coverage.
Yes, parks do matter
Parks and School Siting -- the Controversy Continues
Montgomery Board of Education President Christopher Barclay and Francoise Carrier, Montgomery Planning Board Chair at the June 30 joint meeting.
If you think your local park is sacrosanct, think again. The Montgomery County Public School System and Board of Education (BOE) view our public parks as land ripe for school construction in order to address over-crowding. To follow up on an April letter clarifying the Planning Board's position on this issue, Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier invited the BOE to meet jointly with the Planning Board to discuss the siting of future schools. At the meeting, held on June 30th, the Parks Department emphasized again that, "Park land is not vacant land." The two boards agreed that evening that they would set up a working group to discuss the issue.
After a quick but intense battle this spring, the Save Our Park/Preserve Our Community Coalition had spared their park from becoming a future middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase school cluster. The coalition was able to convince the BOE that their site selection process excluding members of that community was flawed and lacked transparency. Immediately, the BOE changed course and voted to conduct a feasibility study to select Rock Creek Hills Park in Kensington as a school site. The Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association challenged the BOE's procedures, saying the Board had violated the State Open Meetings Act. The Board has denied that it violated the law. However, the State has ruled twice in a month that the BOE has violated the Open Meetings Act .
Residents from the Kensington community are determined to save their park despite the BOE and MCPS contention that they are reclaiming land that was once used as a school location. Find a humorous song and slide show produced by local singer Cathy Fink here.
We welcome the nonprofit Greater Sandy Spring Green Space (GSSGS) as a new Conservation Montgomery partner this month. The mission of Greater Sandy Spring Green Space, Inc., is to promote, for the benefit of the general public: the preservation, protection and balanced use of open space and natural resources within eastern Montgomery County and the Patuxent River Watershed. Their motto is, "Make green space a reality, not a memory." This group has been able to secure conservation easements in the Sandy Spring area, thus saving that land for perpetuity, working with private landowners and developers such as Winchester Homes to set aside green space.