Email signup

Vienna may soon require developers to plant and preserve more trees

A tree on Branch Road in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Town of Vienna is ready to turn over a new leaf in its commitment to tree plantings and preservation.

In the hopes of reversing a significant decline in canopy coverage over the past decade, staff proposed a tree conservation ordinance to the Vienna Town Council last week that would require developers to preserve existing trees when possible.

An ordinance would put the town in line with Fairfax County, which has had conservation rules since the General Assembly extended that authority to Northern Virginia localities in 1990. Right now, Vienna only requires that developers replace eliminated trees to meet canopy standards.

“This is the kind of thing that’s so big, so impactful that I would like to hear from the community on and…is absolutely worthy of a public hearing. It’s a big idea that could have big results,” Councilmember Ed Somers said after the May 8 presentation.

Current canopy requirements vary across zoning districts, but for the single-family residential lots that dominate most of Vienna, builders must provide enough trees to cover at least 20% of the lot after 20 years.

A conservation ordinance would raise that 20-year standard to 25%, require developers to “make an effort” to preserve any trees likely to survive, and let developers unable to meet their on-site canopy requirement contribute to a fund for trees plantings elsewhere in the town.

“If you can’t meet your tree requirements through tree preservation, you supplement that through tree planting, as opposed to what Vienna has right now, where a builder can cut down all the trees if they want and then just replace them with new trees later,” Brian Land, a Vienna resident and Kirkland & Ellis LLP attorney, explained.

The town hired Kirkland & Ellis and the Ramboll US Corporation, a consulting company, in September 2020 for a pro bono project to analyze its tree program and those of other jurisdictions in Virginia.

In addition to a conservation ordinance, the consultants recommend that Vienna create a tree commission to supplement its Conservation and Sustainability Commission and track and publish plantings data on an annual basis.

Town staff have already started to make progress on the tracking recommendation, thanks to a town-wide tree inventory now underway.

Building off an urban tree canopy assessment released in October, the now-complete first phase of the inventory identified 8,640 sites in town that either have a tree or are suitable for future plantings. Of the 7,224 existing trees, 306 were dead, and 689 others were in poor condition, town staff told the council.

Conducted by consultant PlanIT Geo, the project’s second phase will consist of parks that weren’t already surveyed. A final report is expected to be presented to the town council on June 12.

The inventory data, including the health and species of each tree, is being assembled into a dashboard that staff will be able to update in real time and that will be accessible to the public through the town’s website.

While the inventory will provide valuable information, more staff and money are needed to actually plant and maintain trees, Vienna Park Maintenance Superintendent Jeremy Edwards said.

According to Edwards, the town’s annual tree maintenance budget has jumped from $30,000 just two years ago to $80,000 this year, and the council approved $250,000 in federal Covid relief funds for a street tree replacement project on May 1.

However, Vienna has no staff dedicated to tree maintenance, and with hundreds of trees in need of removal or pruning, those funds start to look pretty paltry.

“If trees are important, which I think they are, we do need to build a staff of competent workers that can not just cut trees, but know how to prune them, how to maintain them so we can manage them much better going forward,” Edwards said. “A lot of people can just cut. That’s what we’ve been doing so far, but knowing the proper cuts, that’s the skilled staff we need right now.”

Recent Stories

Good Friday evening, Fairfax County. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. đź•— News recap The following articles were published earlier…

Friday night’s performance by comedian Nate Bargatze is expected to draw the largest crowd ever to EagleBank Arena on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University, according to Monumental Sports…

Reston Association has adopted a new strategic plan that aims to continue the vision of Reston’s founder Bob Simon over the next three years.

A 93-year-old woman died earlier this week from injuries she sustained in a car crash on Leesburg Pike (Route 7) in Bailey’s Crossroads, police say. Gladys Bilbao, a Falls Church…

Great Clips at South Lakes Village Center (Reston, Virginia) is seeking hair donors to participate in the Wigs for Kids program this Valentines Week. If you meet the minimum requirements and would like to donate your hair for children fighting cancer, we would love to host you in our salon this Valentine’s Week for a free haircut.

Minimum Requirements

  • Hair donations must be a minimum of 12 inches

  • Hair donations must be clean and stored/packaged completely dry.

  • Hair donations cannot be permed, color-treated, or highlighted.

  • Temporary coloring or highlights that wash out are acceptable but must be completely washed out before cutting. Gray hair is accepted.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

Peace in Gaza: Prayer Liturgy and Community Discussion for Peace in Arlington VA, Sunday, Feb. 11, 10:15 AM

Prayer, liturgy, and community discussion for peace in Gaza, an immediate cease fire and resumption of humanitarian aid will be hosted by Nova Catholic Community. The focus will be Pope Francis’ call for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages, resumption of humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza, and peace talks for a lasting and just peace for all people in the region.

Discussion will follow at Noon on US military role in the conflict and appropriate steps the US should take to foster peace and rebuilding. Light lunch served.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

Active Bystander: Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) Training

The Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) Active Bystander Certification course, also known as Active Bystander, is the premier training program to prepare civilians for how to respond during an intentional violent event and to address life-threatening emergencies.

Similar to FEMA’s

Ă—

Subscribe to our mailing list