GRANOLAPARK: EZ-reader tree ordinance?

Fall foliage in Takoma Park, November, 2015, Photo by Bill Brown.


Dear Readers,

Councilmember Fred Schultz learned the hard way that riding in an ambulance over speed bumps is “like riding in a hay wagon.” He was treated to an ambulance trip last week. His health took a sudden bad turn, so he got a flashy ride to the hospital. He’s ok now, but after a few painful jolts he now understands, he said, why disabled people and ambulance patients complain about the city’s many speed bumps.

Canopy panoply 

The council had no votes February 1. They had discussions on trees and a new city contractor.

Over a series of meetings in past months, the council, the Tree Commission and the Committee on the Environment have worked out a list of long-term priorities. Top priorities are to “evaluate condition of our urban forest, Improve transparency, documentation and communication, outreach and education.”

Secondary priorities are how public utilities impact the tree canopy, and resources for tree canopy care and expansion.

The third level priority is the infamous tree ordinance.

The problem is, says the Tree Commission, residents don’t read the Tree Ordinance. Then they get tripped up by it. That’s why outreach, education and communication are top priorities.

Councilmember Fred Schultz said that making the tree ordinance easier to understand would help with outreach and education.

The former city arborist resisted rewording the ordinance, said Schultz. But the arborist dramatically quit last summer and is due to be replaced with a bright and shiny new arborist with a bright and shiny new title, Urban Forest Manager.

City manager Ludlow said there are so many applicants with excellent credentials for the position that it is hard to choose. Obviously, it should be the one who looks best in a broad-brim hat and a multi-pocketed vest.

Councilmember Tim Male was in favor of changing city policy so the city could plant canopy-building trees on private as well as public property.

Tree canopy percentage by city ward. Graph from the city tree-canopy study.

Councilmember Rizzy Qureshi noted that there appears to be an relationship between tree canopy and residents’ economic levels. Lower income wards have less tree canopy.

Fred Schultz observed that his ward was developed later than others, at a time when clear cutting lots before building was standard practice. The canopy has not had enough time to recover, he said. Also, some of his constituents value an open lawn over tree cover. Convincing them to plant trees would be a hard sell.


Can you identify your trees? Would you know them in a line-up?

Thanks to a 2014 aerial survey, we know where the trees are and we know how tall they are, but we don’t know what species they are. If we knew the species we could tell young, growing trees from mature, short trees. Then we could predict the height of the future tree canopy – and could make adjustments.

Such a survey could be contracted. A volunteer citizen survey would be cheaper, but would take longer. The advantage of the a citizen survey is that it would educate the public about the community’s trees.

Remember, Dear Reader that council discussions are not decisions. In discussions ideas are floated, but not all stay afloat. So all the ideas above are not about to become policy, but some eventually may.

Bus cuts

WMATA has proposed eliminating two bus routes and reducing rush hour service for another – changes that might affect area residents. Takoma park city manager Suzanne Ludlow described the proposal at the February 1 city council meeting.

The proposed change would eliminate the J1 Bethesda-Silver Spring bus and the J5 Twinbrook-Silver Spring bus. It would reduce the F1 and F2 Chillum Road bus rush hour frequency to every 35 minutes.

City manager Ludlow posted an announcement on the city website. The announcement includes a link to a WMATA public survey on the proposal.

Up and coming

A couple of grassroots movements poked their little green heads out of the city council auditorium floor during the February 1 weekly meeting Citizen Comment session.

One is an effort by Mark of Mark’s Kitchen to turn the alley next to his business into a customer seating area with murals, plantings and rain cover.

The other is a citizen group asking for better pedestrian safety on Philadelphia Avenue.

Both seem like projects that could take hold.



Two meeting segments were hard to get through. First was the legislative update in which the council reviews state legislation it is following. It was very soothing.

Second, which came at meeting’s end when everyone was already drooping,  community development director Sara Daines introduced a representative of the Cloudburst Group of Landover, MD

Cloudburst is the contractor picked to develop a housing and economic development strategic plan. Foolishly, the council asked him to say a few words. More foolishly, they kept asking him questions. And he kept answering in contractorese.

As fellow sufferer Arthur David Olson ‏tweeted:

– Gilbert


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About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

1 Comment on "GRANOLAPARK: EZ-reader tree ordinance?"

  1. Would that the city would have their “urban forest manager” do anything to actually help people with their trees. All Bolton the tree nazi ever did was fee and fine. Thank goodness I live in the under-served part of Takoma Park, a.k.a.the ghetto where nobody gives a rat’s ass if I cut all my tree down. Won’t matter anyway, the lack of proper forest management has left many trees growing two to a spot and what with erosion, next big storm, at least one of mine on Sligo will fall down–hopefully on the city manager’s car.

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