My comments below at the January 25, 2014 County Board meeting about the County’s unauthorized removal of trees on the Ashlawn ES site and plans to remove additional trees not authorized by its use permit drew a stern rebuke of the County Manager from no less than four County Board members. The Board is unhappy that it was not consulted about the plans and the fact that the Manager did not seek to modify the use permit it had authorized for the project last May.
In response the Manager said she will seek a use permit at a public meeting in March. My guess is that the new use permit will simply rubber stamp the change in plans.
At the Dec 14, 2013 Board Meeting I commented on the unauthorized removal of trees and destruction of green space at the site of the Ashlawn ES expansion. Board Members expressed concern that APS deviated from negotiated conditions of use and asked the County Manager to investigate and report back.
At the December 19, 2013 School Board meeting I provided more detailed comments about the same issue. The School Board did not respond.
Basically, the plans that the Board approved on May 18 showed most of the hill and existing tree canopy on the south side of the property remaining.
Use permit section 4(b) says: “Trees designated to be saved on the tree preservation plan or those specified to be saved by the approved use permit and shown on any filing in connection with this case, will be protected.” Condition 4(c) says, “Arlington Public Schools agrees that any tree proposed to be saved on the tree protection plan or other filing shall be saved.”
Yet protected trees were subsequently removed, and more trees are scheduled for removal due to changes in the plan after approval of the use permit. According to the latest plan, 92 trees will be removed, three times more than the 35 allowed by the official Environmental Assessment.
The hill has been excavated, reduced and divided and denuded, and it will take thirty years for replacement trees to provide the tree canopy of the originals.
It’s one thing when private developers lay waste to natural surroundings in the name of by right development. It’s quite another when the county does it in the name of school expansion.
Yet because the Board offered to “get to the bottom of this issue,” I want to know when that report is going to be available. When it is, I recommend that an independent committee be asked to:
1) validate the findings in support of tree removal;
2) provide recommendations for corrective action;
3) provide a report of lessons learned; and
4) provide recommendations for revisions to the review and approval processes used.