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Plans to Cut Down Massive Redwood Tree in Williamsburg Attract Stiff Opposition

Conservationists and neighbors are teaming up to push back against plans to chop down a 114-foot-tall dawn redwood tree in Northwest Arlington.

A developer is currently hoping to demolish a single-family home along the 3200 block of N. Ohio Street, subdivide the lot and build two homes in its place, according to county permit applications.

As part of that process, Richmond Custom Homes could eventually remove several trees in the area, including the large dawn redwood tree in the center of the Williamsburg property.

But an online petition to protect the tree has already garnered more than 800 signatures, and the neighborhood’s civic association is pleading with county leaders to protect the redwood. Not only is the tree recognized as one of the largest of its species by both county and state officials, but it sits within a “Resource Protection Area,” giving the county the chance to scrutinize these construction plans quite closely.

“The tree is stately, thriving and establishes a sense of place and continuity in a rapidly changing county,” Ruth Shearer, the president of the Williamsburg Civic Association, wrote in a letter to the County Board. “The loss of such a prized and recognized tree would be a tragedy, not only to this community but also to Arlington and to Virginia.”

The developer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans for the property. But Shearer points out in her letter that county and state law generally prevents the removal of large trees in Resource Protection Areas, zones near streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.

She argues that Richmond Custom Homes likely won’t be able to prove that their plans meet the narrow exceptions allowing the removal of trees in these areas, a claim echoed by the advocates with the Arlington Tree Action Group.

“Both this tree and this RPA are important for protecting the air and water quality not just of the immediate neighborhood and Arlington County at large, but of the Bay watershed,” the group wrote in a news release. “The loss of either would call into question the enforcement of the [Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance].”

The action group added that this tree is likely one of the largest dawn redwoods in the entire country, and could live to be up to 600 years old if left undisturbed.

Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, noted that the redwood is not necessarily guaranteed protection under Arlington’s tree ordinance, however. She points out that the tree would need to be designated as a “specimen or heritage tree,” a designation the county can only grant following a request from the property’s owner, and the homeowners have yet to ask for such a change.

“The county is reviewing the [developer’s permit] applications and its options for preserving the tree,” Baxter told ARLnow via email. “We’ll keep the community informed of the outcome.”

Read the entire statement on the redwood from the tree action group, after the jump.

AT RISK: STATE CHAMPION TREE IN RESOURCE PROTECTION AREA

Arlington, Virginia – June 25, 2018.  A Commonwealth of Virginia State Champion Tree – very likely one of the oldest Dawn Redwoods in the United States – is at risk of being cut down. As Arlington County acknowledges, the Dawn Redwood is located in a Resource Protection Area (RPA); the Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance (CBPO) requires RPAs to be designated near Arlington streams because those waters flow into the Bay. Thus, both this tree and this RPA are important for protecting the air and water quality not just of the immediate neighborhood and Arlington County at large, but of the Bay watershed. Other single-property homes in this RPA have observed the restrictions placed on building in a RPA.

This has the makings of a landmark case. A Champion Tree and the RPA in which it is located are at stake; the loss of either would call into question the enforcement of the CBPO, not to mention the County processes used to designate Champion Trees and RPAs.

This Dawn Redwood, given its size, is likely one of the oldest in this country. It was identified by American Forests, the Virginia Urban Forest Council, the Virginia Forestry Association, and Arlington County as both an Arlington Champion Tree and a State Champion Tree. When last measured by Arlington’s Urban Forester, it was found to be 114 feet high, with a crown of 60 feet and a circumference of 185 inches.

A Resource to Protect

Generally speaking, the removal of large trees (more than 3 inches in diameter) is not permitted in RPAs, although there are exceptions where, for example, the application of the buffer would prevent the achievement of a “minimum buildable area.” The exceptions require the submission of water quality impact assessment data, a tree preservation and protection plan, sediment and erosion control plans, and other materials. The county website describes RPAs as “…stream or wetland buffers [that] help protect water quality by: filtering out pollutants from storm water runoff; reducing the volume of storm water runoff; minimizing erosion, and; providing wildlife habitat. A fully vegetated stream buffer can help protect private property by preventing erosion along a water body. Steep slopes (25 percent or greater) that are adjacent to buffers are also part of the RPA because of the potential for erosion in these areas. In RPAs, existing trees and other vegetation are protected and building projects are regulated to protect water quality.”

The Dawn Redwood lies within the Williamsburg Civic Association (WCA); the WCA 2017 Neighborhood Conservation Plan, like that of many civic associations, identified the loss of mature trees through development as one of the biggest concerns of residents. A key goal of the Civic Association is to promote efforts to stem “the decline in the tree canopy occasioned by residential development and tear-downs.”

The Dawn Redwood is an unusual tree. Throughout most of modern history Dawn Redwoods were known only from the fossil record. The living tree was discovered in China in the early 1940s and seeds were imported into the United States in the late 1940s. The trees are considered endangered in the wild but have adapted to urban settings because of their tolerance for urban air pollution and wet sites. It’s one of the few deciduous evergreens, losing its needles in the fall and replacing them in the spring. They can live up to 600 years.

Neighborhood petition

A petition launched by neighbors recognized that this beautiful, healthy tree is on a lot large enough to keep the tree and build new homes, just set farther back on the lot. The petition quickly garnered nearly 800 signatures. An article in Arlington Connection (6/13/18) quoted a resident who reviewed the notes to the permit database in April and found building in the RPA had been rejected “…because of failure in the grading plan, the water quality impact assessment, the erosion and sediment control plan and the tree preservation and protection plan.”

Civic Association Plea

In a June 22 letter to the Arlington County Board, the President of the Williamsburg Civic Association lamented that razing the tree “will jeopardize important environmental protection goals embodied in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, Arlington’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (Chapter 61), and Arlington’s Stormwater Manual.” Ruth Shearer added that “state and local law generally prohibit the removal of trees in Resource Protection Areas,” and concluded that the “loss of such a prized and recognized tree would be a tragedy, not only to this community, but also to Arlington and to Virginia!”

Dangerous Precedent?

The Champion Dawn Redwood and the RPA in which it stands provide benefits to all residents, including: capturing carbon and purifying the air, filtering water (ending up in the Bay), giving shade and saving energy, supporting wildlife, mitigating climate change (by removing carbon from the air), and adding to the beauty, ambiance, and history of the neighborhood and county. Both deserve protection.

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Morning Notes

Sycamore Street, Carlin Springs Projects Approved — At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board approved a pair of major road projects. One, intended to improve pedestrian safety along N. Sycamore Street in the Williamsburg neighborhood, “will reduce travel lanes from four lanes to two lanes by adding raised medians planted with trees and grass,” at a cost of $1.4 million. The other will replace the Carlin Springs Road Bridge over North George Mason Drive at a cost of $7 million. [Arlington County, Arlington County]

Fox 5 Zip Trip Comes to Arlington — Fox 5 brought its “Zip Trip” morning news segment to Pentagon Row in Arlington on Friday, highlighting a variety of local organizations, businesses and leaders. Among those making an appearance on live local TV: Bayou Bakery, Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, District Taco, Lebanese Taverna, the Arlington County Fire Department and County Board member Katie Cristol. [Fox 5, Twitter, Twitter]

Park Improvements Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a $2.1 million series of improvements to Stratford Park — including new, lighted tennis and basketball courts — and the replacement of the artificial turf at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The turf replacement is expected to cost just under a half-million dollars. [Arlington County]

County Can’t Halt Development — Despite the desires of some anti-development advocates, Arlington County does not have the legal authority to impose a moratorium on development, County Board members and the County Attorney told a speaker at Saturday’s Board meeting. [InsideNova]

Forest Inn Makes Dive Bar List — The Forest Inn in Westover has made the Washington Post’s list of the “best true dive bars in the D.C. area.” The Post’s Tim Carman and Fritz Hahn recommend ordering “a cold Budweiser, which was, for years, the only beer on tap.” [Washington Post]

Monday Properties Refinances 1812 N. Moore Street — Monday Properties has obtained fresh financing for its 1812 N. Moore Street tower in Rosslyn, which was once on uncertain financial ground as it sought its first tenant but is now set to be the U.S. headquarters of food giant Nestle. A portion of the new financing will be “used for tenant improvements and building upgrades featuring an expanded fitness center and new 12,000-square-foot conference facility on the building’s 24th floor.” [Washington Business Journal]

Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map Updated — The County Board has voted 5-0 to update its Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area map. “The more accurate map will help Arlington protect environmentally sensitive lands near streams and ensure that the County can comply with local and State regulations,” and “will allow the County to review development projects fairly and provide accurate information to residents and other stakeholders,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Peter Golkin

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Morning Notes

Advertising for Capital Bikeshare? — The Arlington County Board has approved a policy that would allow an advertising sponsorship for Capital Bikeshare. A corporate sponsorship of the regionwide system could generate $750,000 over five years for Arlington County, which would be used to support, expand and promote the system in Arlington. [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]

Board Approves Climate Resolution — The County Board last night approved a resolution expressing the county’s commitment to fighting climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency. The resolution also states “that Arlington County supports the principles of the Paris Agreement and will continue to… advance action in accordance with the goals outlined in [it].” [Arlington County]

Arlington Taking Action to Attract Pollinators — Workers planted flowering plants in Arlington yesterday as part of a joint effort to attract more pollinators — insects like bees and butterflies. The environmentally-friendly effort was sponsored by the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, NOVA Parks and Dominion. [WJLA]

Arlington to Update Resource Protection Map — Arlington County will hold public hearings on updating its Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map. “The more accurate map will help Arlington protect environmentally sensitive lands near streams and ensure that the County can comply with local and State regulations,” said a press release. “It will allow the County to review development projects fairly and provide accurate information to residents and other stakeholders.” [Arlington County]

Photos from Crystal City Car Show — The annual Crystal City Fathers Day Auto Festival was held this past weekend and featured more than 100 cars. This year the show was organized in part by Carsfera.com. [Facebook]

Williamsburg Neighborhood Plan Updated — The County Board has approved an update to the Neighborhood Conservation Plan for Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Per a press release: “Residents made recommendations for improving traffic and pedestrian safety, maintaining the neighborhood’s character, protecting the tree canopy and improving neighborhood parks.” [Arlington County]

First Day of Summer — Today is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. [Capital Weather Gang, Vox]

Photo courtesy Valerie O’Such

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Coming to Courthouse Farmers Market This Weekend: An Invasive Species

Blue catfish (Photo by Flickr user rbairdpccam, via Chesapeake Bay Program)Want to eat some locally-caught fish, help feed the hungry and do your part to eliminate an invasive species?

If so, then the Arlington Farmers Market in Courthouse has just the fleshy bottom-feeder for you, starting tomorrow.

The weekly farmers market, which runs on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon in the parking lot at the intersection of N. Courthouse Road and 14th Street N., is adding blue catfish to its offerings.

In a press release, farmers market operator Community Foodworks says blue catfish tastes “delicious.” Knowing that eating it will help rid the Chesapeake Bay of an invasive pest will make it taste even better. Plus, for every pound of blue catfish bought at the farmers market, a portion will be donated to local anti-hunger groups.

The Arlington Farmers Market, located at Courthouse Plaza for over 35 years, is joining forces with Charlottesville-based fisherman Zac Culbertson, of Cold Country Salmon, and Maryland’s Wide Net Project to introduce residents to the joys of eating wild blue catfish as the best way to support local fishermen, eliminate invasive species and combat hunger.

Introduced to certain Virginia tributaries in the 1970s for recreational fishing, the blue catfish (ictalurus furcatus), North America’s largest, now outnumbers other fish 3-to-1 in bay tributaries. The Wide Net Project was founded to turn the plentiful, delicious fish into an affordable source of protein for both anti-hunger relief and paying customers. For every pound of catfish Arlington Farmers Market customers purchase, WNP will donate one portion to local anti-hunger organizations such as Miriam’s Kitchen and Martha’s Table.

As part of its mission to support regional food producers, Arlington Farmers Market recruited Culbertson, who runs a small acreage farm and travels to Bristol Bay, Alaska every summer to net salmon from a biologist-managed, sustainable fishery on the Ugashik River. Culbertson returns his “Beyond Sushi Grade” salmon, which is frozen immediately after catch, to Virginia where he produces salmon spread, salmon cakes, salmon animal treats, spices, and glazes.

Beginning November 7 at Arlington Farmers Market, Culbertson will sell Wide Net Project blue catfish, his wild salmon and salmon products and Virginia oysters from Seaford Oyster Company in Seaford, VA.

Photo by Flickr user rbairdpccam, via Chesapeake Bay Program

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Morning Notes

Virginia Square Fountain (Flickr pool photo by ddimick)

Officials See Positives in Voting Rights Act Ruling — Although civil rights activists have expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act earlier this week, some local officials see a few benefits in the decision. Election officials no longer need approval from the U.S. Department of Justice on election matters down to the precinct level. That will allow them to make decisions on the fly, such as extending absentee voting or holding a voter registration drive. [Sun Gazette]

State Reissues Arlington’s Municipal Stormwater Permit — The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) reissued Arlington’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. Arlington is the first municipality in the state to receive an MS4 permit that includes quantitative pollution reduction requirements to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The new permit is in effect through mid-2018, during which time Arlington is required to decrease its share of the nutrient and sediment reductions by five percent. [Arlington County]

Arlington Company Receives $100 Million from Goldman Sachs — Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), a Ballston-based maker of cloud based data analysis software, has received a $100 million minority investment from Goldman Sachs. APT plans to use the funding to open an office in Japan and take on more clients. The company lists Wal-Mart and McDonald’s among its existing customers. [Bloomberg]

Flickr pool photo by ddimick

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Arlington Among Chesapeake Bay Grant Recipients

Arlington is one of the communities receiving grant money for restoration and outreach initiatives in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed area.

Congressman Jim Moran (D) and County Board member Walter Tejada were on hand to accept Arlington’s portion of the $9.2 million in grants awarded by the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, which is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Arlington County was directly awarded $80,000 for its project to expand the “StormwaterWise Landscapes Program,” which provides incentives for private landowners to install innovative stormwater management projects on their properties. It’s projected to reduce the amount of pollution entering Four Mile Run, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay by cutting down on the polluted runoff from at least 80 residential yards, driveways and roofs.

“I applaud the EPA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for their diligent management of the Chesapeake Bay small watershed and nutrient and sediment removal grants,” Moran said. “One of our most cherished resources, the Chesapeake Bay has fallen victim to contamination from decades of development and agriculture runoff. These grants help build local community efforts to clean the Bay, leveraging resources, and providing new and innovative approaches to fully restore the Bay’s health.”

In addition to the project grant, the county is expected to benefit secondarily from grants awarded to organizations doing projects throughout Northern Virginia and the state. An example is the $500,000 grant awarded to Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Inc., which includes Falls Church in the communities it will target for stormwater incentive programs.

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Morning Notes

Fall Sports Registration Begins Tomorrow — Registration for fall sports and classes in Arlington begins tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8:00 a.m. The fall 2012 “Enjoy Arlington!” catalog is available online. [Department of Parks and Recreation]

Arlington Devises Runoff Plan — Arlington has devised a plan for reducing stormwater runoff to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Stormwater is one of the largest sources of pollutants in the bay. Among other methods, Arlington is planning to reduce runoff by creating more stormwater-retaining greenscapes in public right of ways. [Washington Post]

APS Gets New Instruction Chief — Donna Snyder, formerly the interim principal at Hoffman-Boston Elementary School, has been named the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for Arlington Public Schools. [Arlington Mercury]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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