Tree Cutting Latest Issue in Woodley Park "McMansion" Debate

By Jane Watrel
|  Wednesday, Sep 22, 2010  |  Updated 8:31 PM EDT
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Tree Removal Not Taken Lightly in D.C. Neighborhood

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Tree Removal Not Taken Lightly in D.C. Neighborhood

Construction crews are tearing down trees in one D.C. neighborhood and not everyone is happy to see them go.
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Some in a northwest D.C. neighborhood are up in arms as a controversial plan to build two large homes moves forward.

Opponents have labeled the new homes McMansions and are waging a legal fight to keep them out of Woodley Park, but it may be too late. The latest disturbance started Wednesday morning, when a developer started chopping down three mature trees. Neighbors gathered in disbelief

"These are three-story-high trees, and they are gone forever now," neighbor Rena Miller said. "It's going to take hundreds of years to replace this."

Since April, neighbors have been waging a public battle over 2910 Garfield NW. Zuckerman Partners bought the land, which was split into two lots, and plans to demolish the house and replace it with two 5,000-square-foot homes.

"Each of the houses will have six and seven bedrooms, elevators, two-car garages and be out of keeping with these modest three- or four-bedroom homes that are in Woodley Park," neighbor Gwen Bole said.

Neighbors accuse the developer and D.C. government of keeping them in the dark about the redevelopment plans. A lawyer for the developer said an Aug. 20 ruling in D.C. Superior Court found that the developer does not have to notify the neighborhood if it wants to subdivide the property and the developer is well within his rights to clear the land.

Neighbors have tried to halt the development by appealing a zoning administrators' decision and want to block the use of public sidewalk space.

But a spokesman for the agency that issued the permits said the developer is authorized to clear the trees, raze the structure and construct the houses. DCRA has no authority to stop the owner.

Neighbors disagree.

"We think it violates many aspects of D.C. zoning, including right to privacy,  population density, neighborhood character," neighbor Richard DeKaser said. "They’ve said just the opposite. Therein lies the difference."

The developer is paying an $11,000 fee to the city's tree fund.

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