July 22, 2017 – Request for cases in which the County Manager has allowed private parties to remove or damage County trees

Chapter 67 of the Arlington County Code (Trees and Shrubs) provides, in part:

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person . . . to destroy, cut down, girdle, break, bend, wound, or in any manner injure or remove any tree or shrub upon any public right-of-way, any other County owned public land, or any public vehicular or public pedestrian access easements where the County is responsible for the maintenance of such easement without the written permission of the County Manager.   Any person violating this Section shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

(b)   The County Manager shall not remove or permit removal of all or any part of any tree or shrub unless the County Manager has determined that the action proposed is necessary or desirable and will not be contrary to any County policy or plan or ordinance for or related to trees, shrubs, plants, or other vegetation.

(c)   The County Manager’s permission under this section shall be evidenced by a writing that specifies the tree or shrub for which removal is permitted and the duration of the permission, except such written permission is not required if the removal is performed by County employees or County contractors or County agents.   Such permission shall be issued only upon the conditions that (i) the applicant for permission agrees either to replace the tree or shrub specified to be removed at a rate and with guaranties in accord with the Tree Guidelines within one year of the date of the permission or immediately pays to the County an amount equaling the full value of the tree or shrub specified to be removed, at the option of the County Manager, and (ii) the applicant, in the event of destruction of or injury to an unspecified tree or shrub, agrees to either replace such unspecified tree or shrub at a rate and with guaranties in accord with the Tree Guidelines or to pay to the County an amount equaling the full value of the unspecified tree or shrub, at the option of the County Manager.   The full value of a tree or shrub shall be determined by the County Manager in accordance with appraisal methods developed by the Council of Tree & Landscape Appraisers and published by the International Society of Arboriculture in Guide for Plant Appraisal.

Please provide me, pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), copies of any and all public records for the last two years – regardless of whether they are a paper record, an electronic file, an email, an audio or video recording or any other format – that contain or relate to decisions of the County Manager providing or denying permission for the destruction, cutting down, girdling, breaking, bending, wounding, or otherwise injuring or removing a tree or shrub upon any public right-of-way, any other County owned public land, or any public vehicular or public pedestrian access easements where the County is responsible for the maintenance of such easement. Provided, if there are more than thirty such decisions of the County Manager in the last year, then I will only need to see the decisions of the last year and related documents.

Also, please provide me copies of any public records, in whatever format they may be, relating to any criminal prosecutions or civil actions taken in the last two years to enforce Chapter 67 of the Arlington County Code.

If the responsive records are posted online at https://foia.arlingtonva.us/ then I will not need to receive copies of the records.

Please provide me an estimate of any charges for the requested records in advance.

Thank you.

 

Theo Stamos, Commonwealth’s Attorney, provided a prompt and helpful reply confirming that there have been no criminal prosecutions under Chapter 67 for the last two years.

The Arlington County FOIA Officer replied in relevant part:

This letter is in response to your Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for information pertaining to Chapter 67 of the Arlington County Code (Trees and Shrubs).

Pursuant to Code of Virginia § 2.2-3704(H), the County is permitted to, before continuing to process your request, require you to pay a deposit to the County for the estimated charges that the County will incur for producing the requested records, if the County’s estimated charges exceed $200. The County estimates that the total charges that the County will incur for locating and producing the responsive records for your request will be $959.83. Any deposit shall be credited toward the final cost that the County incurs for supplying the requested records. The breakdown of the cost is as follows:

DPR Deputy Division Chief 4 hours’ x $44.82 = $179.28

Acting Urban Forester Manager 8 hours’ x $31.11 = $248.88

Urban Forester 8 hours’ x $42.84 = $342.72

IT Email Search (Former DPR Urban Forester) 5 hours’ x $37.79 = $188.95

TOTAL: $959.83

In order for the County to proceed with processing your request, the County requires a deposit of $479.91, which constitutes one-half of the total estimated charges that the County will incur. In the event that the County’s final costs are more than your deposit, you will be billed for the difference. In the event that the County’s final costs are less than your deposit, the difference will be refunded to you. Please submit your deposit payable to “Treasurer, Arlington County”, by mail to [the] FOIA Officer, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Suite # 302, Arlington, VA, 22201.