The recent release of Casey Trees’ Third Annual Tree Report Card has generated much discussion about tree protection, one of the five metrics used to determine the District's overall grade of C. The tree protection metric, the measure of the effectiveness of the Urban Forest Preservation Act (UFPA) of 2002, received a failing grade.
While the tree protection metric evaluates the success of the UFPA, there are lesser-known regulatory tools called Tree and Slope Protection Overlays in place to help safeguard D.C.’s trees. While Tree and Slope Protection overlays exist in a very small portion of the District, they merit discussion.
What is an overlay?
An overlay is a special zoning district for a specific geographic area that provides supplemental regulations to the underlying zoning district (R-1, R-2, C-1, etc.). In general, overlays build in additional protections often for the purposes of urban design, historic preservation or environmental buffering. Three Tree and Slope Protection Overlays in D.C. - The Tree & Slope Protection (TSP) overlay, the Forest Hills Tree & Slope Protection overlay (FH-TSP) and the Chain Bridge-University Terrace (CB/UT) - do just that. All have similar protections and are located in Ward 3. You can see each overlay in the map below.
Each of the three Tree and Slope Overlays provide the following:
- Total protection for all trees with a circumference of 75 inches or more. These trees cannot be removed, even with a permit unless they are dead or diseased.
- Prevents removal of more than 3 trees measuring 38 inches in circumference. These removals cannot take place within 25 feet of a property line abutting the public right of way.
- Prohibits removal of more than 25% of the total trees 12 inches and wider.
- Forbids building permit will be issued for the site for seven years for violators.
- Limits building footprints to 30% of the total lot area and no more than 50% of the lot can be covered by impervious surface.