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Leggett Coming To Bethesda To Push Tree Canopy Conservation

By Aaron Kraut

Thursday - 4/25/2013, 2:34pm  ET

County Executive Isiah Leggett (file photo)County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) will be in Bethesda tomorrow to help plant two trees in celebration of National Arbor Day and to encourage the County Council to pass his controversial tree canopy conservation bill.

The bill, which would require private property owners in small lots to pay a fee for lost canopy, is aimed at the many homeowners in older Bethesda neighborhoods who are taking down old homes and replacing them with supersized ones.

Leggett and the county’s Department of Environmental Protection argue this has led to significant loss of tree canopy that until now hasn’t been on the county’s radar because development was taking place at bigger lots. The bill proposes to take the fees and create a county-managed fund for planting new trees nearby.

In their presentation to the County Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee earlier this year, Environmental Protection officials used overhead images of Bethesda neighborhoods to show the loss of tree canopy over the last decade.

The building industry’s response to the proposal has not been kind, though there are signs the sides are coming closer to a compromise.

The Transportation and Environment Committee is expected to make a final recommendation on the bill in June, after work is finished on the FY14 budget.

On Friday, Leggett will join Conservation Montgomery, which is in favor of the bill, to plant a yellowwood tree and dogwood tree at the Bethesda Library overlooking Caroline Freeland Park.

A press release says the Bethesda Garden Club and B-CC High School students will water the trees during the summer.