The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved a law that will require home builders who take out trees on project sites to plant new trees or pay into a fund the county will use to plant trees off-site.
The Tree Canopy Conservation bill will be a significant new rule for builders in the tear-down market, a popular real estate trend in the older neighborhoods of Bethesda and Chevy Chase.
The county’s Department of Environmental Protection and County Executive Isiah Leggett introduced the bill last fall with the loss of tree canopy in older Bethesda neighborhoods in mind. DEP officials included overhead images of a neighborhood along Fairfax Road to show the loss of tree canopy over time as property owners subdivided lots and built bigger houses.
Now, builders will be required to replace any tree canopy lost, either directly on the property or through the county fund.
A project that disturbs 9,000 square feet of tree canopy would require nine new shade trees. If the builder doesn’t plant any on-site, it would be required to pay for nine shade trees at $250 each through the county fund. If the builder only plants three, for example, it would be required to pay $1,500 for the remaining six into the fund.
Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) hailed the bill as a significant step for the county.
“We are doing something that we have never done before. We are saying that trees on private property have a community value,” Berliner said.