Property Rights - Pending Legislation
In July of 2013 two significant pieces of legislation regarding trees were approved by the Montgomery County Council. Trees are typically removed during home improvements to comply with storm water management regulations. Montgomery County has the strictest regulations in the U.S. regarding storm water management, energy codes, and, now, tree planting. These regulations, enacted over the past three years, have increased costs to property owners by approximately $40,000 without adding value to the property. These regulations are not required by any neighboring State.
No study or empirical data was provided by the County demonstrating a decline in our tree canopy. The legislation anticipates a possible future concern based primarily on anecdotal and selective examples. The most recent study done by Park & Planning shows our tree canopy is thriving by any standard and exceeds any neighboring State.
There are still many details to work out that could impact the additional costs to property owners. We encourage you to join the discussion on this issue by sending e-mails to the County Executive at firstname.lastname@example.org and the County Council at County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov.
The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection has produced an excellent brochure on the Tree Canopy, and planting and caring for trees. To view this brochure, click here.
Tree Canopy Bill 35-12. Submitted by County Executive Ike Leggett, this legislation impacts everyone who needs a sediment control permit, which is required for any small home addition, a new driveway, a front porch, or a new home. Even if no trees are removed, the property owner must plant a significant number of trees on the private property to proceed with the home improvements.
Under this Bill, an 8,010 square foot lot will require 9 shade trees (elm, oak, etc.) - ornamental trees (dogwood, cherry, etc.) don't count. The County also requires spacing between the trees making it impossible to plant this number of trees on site. In this event the County requires the property owner to pay a fee for any tree not planted. The fee for a lot this size is estimated at $2,250. These fees will be used by the County to plant trees somewhere else. To view a diagram showing tree coverage required by this new bill, click here.
Prior to this Bill a property owner could remove trees on their private property without any approval or fee from the County.
Roadside Tree Bill 41-12. Sponsored by Councilman Berliner, this legislation requires that, should a property owner impact a tree in the right of way, the owner must submit a plan to the County demonstrating the need and/or additional tree protection measures. If the County approves the removal of a street tree, it must be replaced with three new trees. For any tree not planted the County requires a fee of $250 to plant trees somewhere else.
Prior to this Bill a property owner applied for a permit from the State Department of Natural Resources which required an on-site inspection, a permit fee of $25, and replacement of the tree that was removed. The former process achieved no net loss in street trees. In addition the County approved all State permits prior to the issuance of a right of way permit necessary for home improvements. The former process provided the County with the final approval of all tree removal permits issued by the State.
If you would like to provide comments to the Council email your comments to County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember Nancy Floreen has created a blog with information on activity throughout our County. Visit http://nancyfloreen.blogspot.com/
Property Rights May Change Soon
Learn how pending legislation can impact your property rights and email your opinions to County Council members here.