There are plenty of things the board could do to encourage the preservation of trees, if it were so motivated. Here are but a few:
• Adopt the Use-Value Assessment Assessment Program (as has Fairfax County, Alexandria City, Loudoun County, Prince William County and most of the rest of the state) to reward property owners for keeping large tracts of land open and undeveloped. See map and details at https://aaec.vt.edu/extension/use-value/map.html
• Adopt a tree preservation ordinance based on § 15.2-961.1. Conservation of trees during land development process in localities belonging to a nonattainment area for air quality standards (as has Fairfax County). See full section of the State Code athttps://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title15.2/chapter9/section15.2-961.1/
• Strengthen enforcement of existing permitting rules on public as well as private sites and do not give APS and county government a free pass on adhering to permit requirements, as the county and board did when APS cut more trees than permitted on the Ashlawn Elementary School site (with the board simply changing the permit instead of applying penalties): https://www.arlnow.com/?s=Ashlawn+use+permit
• Stop exploiting loopholes in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act with respect to resource/riparian protection areas (RPAs) on public land. The projects at Ashlawn Elementary, the Lubber Run Community Center site, Donaldson Run’s Tributary B and now Upton Hill collectively represent a loss in excess of 380 mature trees on publicly owned land. Next up is the chainsaw massacre of a forested parcel next to the Potomac River downhill from Rosslyn to make way for a parking lot and other accoutrements related to a new boathouse.
• Reinstate sensible setback rules and height limits for S-3A zoned public land (representing most public parkland) to discourage development in public parks. Staff made clear that it wouldn’t limit these changes to school construction but wished to extend the changes for all structures built on county parkland. See https://building.arlingtonva.us/resource/zoning-amendments-2016/
• Identify and nominate more “specimen” trees — the only category that provides legal protections — to more than 10 trees on public land. Out of the 11.6 sq mi of public land, there must be more than 10 trees worth saving. On the 14.4 sq mi of private land, there are 16 specimen trees. See https://environment.arlingtonva.us/trees/support-trees/specimen-trees/
• “Build up, under and over rather than out” on public sites to minimize land disturbance, tree loss and the proliferation of hardscape and impervious surfaces, as recommended by the Community Facilities Study Final Report. See p. 12 at https://environment.arlingtonva.us/trees/support-trees/specimen-trees/
• Apply a whole building design/whole system approach to site design on public sites, which would utilize the lowest impact strategies that limit land disturbance and preserve existing vegetation to the maximum degree possible: https://www.wbdg.org/design-objectives/sustainable/optimize-site-potential
• Reduce land disturbance and retain the free and sustainable natural stormwater management infrastructure (aka non-structural best management practices/BMPs) from public sites rather than replacing them with expensive, man-made “gray” stormwater management infrastructure: http://www.spcregion.org/water/pdf/facts/15 Non-Structural BMPs.pdf and f
• Increase the number of LEED points awarded (now just 1 point) for reducing land disturbance and preserving existing mature trees on sites to be developed.
• Integrate stormwater management/impervious surface reduction principles into lot coverage restrictions and apply lot coverage restrictions to ALL housing, not just single-family properties: https://building.arlingtonva.us/resource/lot-coverage/
• Increase the minimum landscaping percentage for all of its commercial zoning categories to 20%, as it does for the C-1-O zoning category: https://building.arlingtonva.us/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2016/06/ACZO.pdf
• Fully fund land acquisition for public natural space. The draft Public Spaces Master Plan (POPS) states that acquiring 204 additional natural acres is needed to serve a growing population, but the board and manager have delayed funding and acquisition of these lands until 2025 or 2035 — when there is no guarantee that any such parcels will still exist. See p. 24 at http://arlington.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=3478&meta_id=173033 and p. C-7 at https://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2018/05/C.-Revised_General-Government.pdf
• Work with state and federal stormwater program managers to “better integrate urban tree canopy and riparian buffer goals with TMDL/WIP implementation and MS4 programs” — see p. 11 of “Tree Canopy Outcome Management Strategy 2015–2025” at
• Educate residential property owners on the benefits of meaningful historic preservation designation that protects both the mature landscape and trees as well as historic structures: https://building.arlingtonva.us/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2016/09/ACZOSection31A.pdf
Rather than looking for ways to preserve trees and restore natural infrastructure that benefits not only wildlife but also human health, Arlington County hides behind excuses to justify raping the environment. The loss of Arlington’s mature tree canopy isn’t inevitable, it’s a choice.