“Their town has become farcically overregulated”

Discontent at a land-use control process perceived as “condescending and obnoxious” helped fuel a surprise voter revolt in affluent Chevy Chase, Md., just across the D.C. border in Montgomery County. [Washington Post] Aside from intensive review of requests to expand a deck or convert a screened-in porch to year-round space, there are the many tree battles:

[Insurgents] cite the regulations surrounding tree removal as especially onerous. Property owners seeking to cut down any tree 24 inches or larger in circumference must have a permit approved by the town arborist and town manager attesting that the tree is dead, dying or hazardous.

If turned down, residents can appeal to a Tree Ordinance Board, which applies a series of nine criteria to its decision, including the overall effect on the town’s tree canopy, the “uniqueness” or “desirability” of the tree in question and the applicant’s willingness to plant replacement trees.

More: Philip K. Howard with ideas for fixing environmental permitting. [cross-posted at Free State Notes]


  • Pffft. Frustrating, sure. But they have nothing on Santa Monica. My bureaucratic nadir was when they demanded manufacturer’s data detailing how long the ink would last on the labeling for a solar power system.

  • […] More: Philip K. Howard with ideas for fixing environmental permitting. [cross-posted from Overlawyered] […]

  • Woodman, spare that tree!


    We had some family friends surnamed Woodman, but I never had an occasion to spring this dubious pun on them.

  • Most galling of all is when such regulations are in place for residents but the city itself cuts down trees at will left and right for no good reason whatsoever.
    E.g. they cut down over a hundred trees here last year “because the root systems were lifting up bicycle trails”. The city council decided it was too expensive to repave those trails every 5-10 years to repair damage from tree roots working loose the pavement so they cut down the trees that had been providing shade to those trails for decades instead.
    Without of course planting new trees to replace them, which any commoner would be by law required to do at a 2-1 ratio (plant 2 trees for every 1 tree removed).
    And those were just a few of the thousand or more trees this city removed just last year for reasons other than that they were sick, infested with parasites, or dead.

  • Our little village in Florida has quite a collection of Condo Commandos, busybodies who go around constantly informing on who is breaking what regulation concerning trees, lawns; landscaping, decks, etc.
    I have a neighbor who had 2 large oak trees in his front yard, and had been trying for over 1 year to get a permit to remove both of them. City regulations, homeowners associations bylaws, he just could not get the approvals.
    Then we had hurricanes Charly, Fran, and Jean in 2004. There were trees aplenty blown down all over the place. My neighbor’s 2 trees somehow got added to the pile. Although I would not suggest going out in the eye of a hurricane to “help” the natural process through judicious use of an axe and a chainsaw.

  • […] anger-management classes, and a [no-contact] court order.” [Terrence McCoy, Washington Post] Last month we noted what one resident called the “farcically overregulated” state of land use controls in […]