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Proposed RA Rules Will Make it Tougher to Remove a Tree

by Karen Goff June 18, 2015 at 9:30 am 1,244 57 Comments

Trees in Reston

Reston Association is considering new Design Review Board guidelines that will make it much tougher to remove a tree from your property.

Tree removal is just one area, but an extensive one, for the proposed DRB updates. See the entire list on RA’s website.

Among the tree rules under consideration: residents will no longer be able to say “excessive shade, establishing a lawn, and undesirable litter” are reasons for getting rid of a tree, RA says.

The DRB said it received feedback from RA staff, the Environmental Advisory Committee and RA members on the topic an is making changes in order to more clearly convey the DRB objective to protect and preserve Reston’s natural wooded areas and maturing landscape.

Among the other tree rule changes:

The height from the ground for trunk diameter measurement is changing from 4′ to 4.5′ to match industry standard.

Wording is being added requiring an application if the removal of smaller trees and understory vegetation will change the overall character of a natural wooded area.

Clear information on the expected treatment of stumps has been added (Stump Treatment).

Definitions of Tree Save or Save Tree Area, Natural Area, and Resource Protection Area (RPA)/Conservation Easement have been added.

Instructions to obtain documentation for dead trees, allowed non-tree vegetation removal and instructions on allowed pruning have been added to the No Application section.

A requirement for notification signatures has been added to all live tree removals (any size ornamental and 4″ or greater diameter for deciduous) with the allowance of staff level review for up to three trees.

The requirement of a certified arborist statement when photos do not clearly substantiate the reason for removal and that the statement must include the arborist’s certification number and reason for removal have been added.

A requirement that replacement trees must be maintained has been added so that owners know they must replace required replacement trees which die.

A requirement to obtain DRB approval for changes which alter the overall character of a natural wooded area has been added.

The application checklist has been edited to more fully represent all items necessary for submission of an application for tree removal.

The proposed changes for all categories will go before the RA Board for a vote later this summer.

  • Reston Realist

    Please explain why ANY of the proposed changes are (a) needed, (b) useful, (c) even occurring. Other than making life more irritating for Restonians, I see no benefit from the changes–just another costly, unnecessary move by RA to demonstrate its authority vs. making Reston better for RA members.


      Because they are effing retarded. Sorry to use the R word, but I cannot stand these asshats just sitting around their boardroom thinking of new things they can regulate. If I want a tree down on or near my property, I will CLOROX the hell out of it until it dies. I’ve also heard that if you hammer a copper nail into the tree, it will also kill it. RA….just stop. Go clean up the garbage in the streets and leave us alone.

      • Wondering why

        Please explain again why you moved into an HOA?


          When I moved here RHOA was much different than it is today. It used to be what you think of when you think “home owner’s association”. Its recent incarnation is another layer of wasteful government spending. Its gotten way too big, way too expensive. All of our assessments go to feeding the beast . Six figure salaries, overly generous health insurance and benefits packages are the norm Class A leased office space We already pay for the same thing at the county level. And I see no extra benefit anymore. Its time to disband it and just fold into the county.

          • Greg

            Agree 100 percent.

          • June Smith

            I hear you – that’s why I sold my RA controlled home and bought another home in Reston that is not an RA property. I love Reston, but not RA


            I hear you. Its like loving America, but hating the government. RA is a microcosm of big government, plain and simple.

          • edgyone

            How can we start a movement towards this? Is a referndum on the topic possible?


            I wish I could give you that answer. With the Board being what it is, and all the overpaid employees wanting to keep their jobs, I don’t think we could get traction at any meetings. Maybe petitions being signed at pools, grocery stores, etc. would send a message. Talk to your neighbors. Agitate them like they agitate us. Call. Ask questions. Observe and document waste.

          • east297

            AMEN!!!! Thank u for voicing this proposal. Down with RA!!!

        • Mike M

          And you? To be administratively bullied by pendants and the OCD neighbors who play them?

        • edgyone

          F and the RA horse you rode in on. I am so tired of this crap that I am ready to move. RA will destroy property values by this BS.

    • Greg

      They are not needed. In fact, there’s an RA covenant addressing overgrown vegetation (such as that seen in the photo heading this article). So, does this mean there will be inconsistencies in those covenants?

      More needed is a change from, for example, a demand for incandescent lighting. As everyone knows, incandescent lighting is now obsolete, wasteful, and harmful in a county that has a cool-counties plan and an admitted black hole if inadequately lighted streets and pathways in Reston. Then there are cedar shake roofs and T-111 (wood) house siding. Neither are good or durable at all in our subtropical humid climate especially considering all of the the vegetation surrounding most of the homes clad with that stuff.

      • Karen Goff

        Photo is of my own front yard. Probably not covenant violation-worthy. Just a wooded lot.


          Is that English Ivy I see? Any garlic mustard hiding in there ?

          • Karen Goff

            Nothing is as invasive as the aptly named Virginia Creeper, which has taken over said yard like those vines in “Jumanji.”

          • edgyone

            A neighboring cluster wants us to plant it because it is “native”.

          • June Smith

            OMG – you have one of those too?

          • June Smith

            I have nothing but very bad words to say about that ugly Garlic Mustard. Mine doesn’t even hide – even when I hit it with a flame – it still comes back and continues to haunt me. Short of digging up the back yard, pouring concrete and painting it green, I’m afraid I’ve been beaten by a weed and now, just try to keep it under control.


            My point w/ the garlic mustard is that RA spends so much time and energy worrying about weeds in the deep woods & natural areas but they do not care at all about trash in the streets. The emperor has no clothes.

        • Greg

          I think it’s a lovely front yard, but I prefer woods and natural habitats. What’s worthy of noting is that there’s interpretation as to what “overgrown” means at the DRB. I’ve sat through too many DRB meetings where there was endless haggling and arguing about this very topic. Some want nothing but green lawns and others want nothing but natural woodlands.

          To wit (emphasis added): (6) Vegetation. No tree or plant of any kind shall be installed or maintained in such a manner as to obstruct pathways, sidewalks or sight lines of vehicular traffic or, in the opinion of the Board of Directors or its designated committee, as to be detrimental to neighboring real property.

    • June Smith

      You can always replace the board in the next election – maybe run for office

  • TS Bill

    in this new era of extreme weather you should encourage home owners to cut down trees when they get too large. I bet a couple of derechos will change their mind.

    • Cyrus Sabavala

      Without absurd mandates for people to actually TAKE CARE OF their trees, youre 100% right. Roots grow shallow and wide, dead branches/weight, and not clearing out the trees and trimming properly cause bigger problems. You should see the clown show I have to look at in my backyard neighbors yard. Those absurd trees should be cut, cleared and tossed…

    • June Smith

      In my community – in a 2-year period – four mature trees were uprooted during heavy rains and crashed through roofs – causing an estmated $50,000 damage to EACH home – and displacing the families for up to four months. More trees fell, but missed homes – one fell on a patio and the impact shattered the patio doors.

      Since then, our trees have been give closer scruitny – numerous sick and dying trees – as well as oversized trees that do not belong in a TH community have been removed.

      For all the tree huggers out there – without a couple years after these mature trees were removed – the canopy filled in and did not affect the shade provided by the trees …. areas that were stared on sunlight – that turned to mud or mossy after heavy rains … now have rich lush grass and no slipery moss … and in the last 3 years, not one tree has fallen on a house

      It’s one thing to protect the trees that are healthy and fit in well with the layout of the land .. over reach however can be dangerous and costly

      • edgyone

        I urge all to write in to RA and tell them to stop this BS. We need to organize and get rid of RA once and for all. Am i the only one tired of them telling me how to live. I thought I lived in the United States, then I moved to Reichtown and I feel oppressed.

        • June Smith

          The storm yesterday shoudl be a good argument in defense of removing trees. I posted too soon – this is not my home – but it was only a couple blocks away

        • June Smith

          More results from yesterday’s storm … trees are nice – but when commuters are backed up for miles because downed trees made some of our roads impassible … well ….

        • June Smith

          And one last commuter nightmare shot


          I identify as a resident of a NON-RA neighborhood.

  • meh

    Beavers won’t care

  • Lisa W.

    Hmmm…but developers can clear out a forest to throw in more high rise condos, right?

    • LiliKang

      But then they use those saplings to make “Public Art” so its all good.

    • UStifosi .

      St. John’s Wood are you listening?

  • Money Trees

    Me and my miggas tryna get it, ya bish
    Hit this house lick tell me is you with it, ya bish
    Home invasion was persuasive
    From nine to five I know it’s vacant, ya bish
    Dreams of living life like rappers do
    Back when condom wrappers wasn’t cool
    I plucked Sherene then went to tell my bros
    Then Usher Raymond “Let it Burn” came on
    Hot sauce all in our Top Ramen, ya bish
    Parked the car and then we start rhyming, ya bish
    The only thing we had to free our mind
    Then freeze that verse when we see dollar signs
    You looking like an easy come up, ya bish
    A silver spoon I know you come from, ya bish
    And that’s a lifestyle that we never knew
    Go at a reverend for the revenue
    It go Halle Berry or hallelujah
    Pick your poison tell me what you doin’
    Everybody gon’…

    • Mike M


    • Cluster Tycoon

      Used to be that rock music would promote suicides which was somewhat useful since it eliminated the useless segment of our population. These days pop music seems to only promote home invasions and retarded tree rules. It’s kind of lame but if it puts our older popular to sleep it’s probably a good thing regardless.

      • Mike M

        Your tycoon wealth would not be that of wisdom.

  • Greg

    Anyone remember Isabel? Trees down and into houses all over Reston.

  • Mike M

    Hurricane Sandy dropped a giant oak on my chimney and obliterated it. The repairs were done improperly and I had a housefire as a result. I was out of the house for four months (in a rental next to a couple who had been unhoused as a result of a tree falling on them during the derecho). The hardest part of getting everything transitioned out and back in and set right wasn’t the gas company, the insurance company, the trash company, Fairfax Water, etc. The hardest part about getting back in my house was #1 Verizon, (of course!) and a close #2, RA. They had issues with the COLOR of the new brick chimney. Smart people got involved and we eventually came to reasonable terms, but it was stress I definitely did not need at the time. They can truely be a #2 can’t they!

    RA needs to recognize that much of Reston is under mature forest and forests are littlered with their fallen.

  • Max

    We can’t cut down a tree, yet when a tree damages our foundation that we did not plant they will not help pay for the damage the tree caused. Oh and make us pay for cutting down the tree.

    • edgyone

      Write the reston lord elected in your area and ask him to vote against this and all the other ridiculous new drb guidelines.

  • Hunters Woody

    Come on down to see the devastation around freetown drive today and then tell me about restrictions on tree removal.

  • Headless Ned Stark

    Bran Stark speaks through the trees from the cave of the three eyed crow.

  • edgyone

    I hope a tree falls on their houses.

  • LF Morris, Reston

    How about continually falling on power lines and leaving thousands in the dark for hours?

    • June Smith

      Where in Reston are there power lines that affect residential properties

      • LF Morris, Reston

        No idea of the exact location, sorry. But, I can tell you that in the past 2 weeks the power was out twice due to power line issues. I live in Hunters Woods Village and 2 weeks ago, on a lovely Saturday evening, I came home & discovered the power had gone out. It affected the shopping center, the traffic light was out at the intersection as well so I don’t know how many other neighborhoods were affected. We were told someone had crashed into a utility box (?). There are no visible overhead power lines that I have ever seen
        , but whatever we rely on is not in a secured location as this type of thing happens several times a year. It is not always due to bad weather which makes it even harder to understand when you are once again experiencing a power outage.

        • LF Morris, Reston

          BY THE WAY, one of the many reasons I moved to Reston is because I love that it is so beautiful. It is wonderful to look at so much greenery and I have a great view of the trail from my balcony… but, yes, sometimes that beauty can be dangerous. It’s heart-breaking to see the damage several families experienced this week. It’s amazing and wonderful that no one was injured.

      • Greg

        There are residential power lines along Baron Cameron Avenue between Bennington Woods and Leesburg Pike.

        There are also lines crossing Reston Parkway at South Lakes and, of course, the W&OD trail is a Dominion right of way with power towers from end to end.

  • Delsin Rowe

    There are plenty of large trees overgrowing and overshadowing my deck. Last derecho, one destroyed my deck and everything on it. I am concerned about one falling in on the roof.
    I think the RA should manage the pools, pathways, and tennis courts.
    Or maybe they use their vast legislative powers and budget to get the drug dealers off the trails.

    • edgyone

      Will RA pay for your time and effort of having your property rebuilt after they say you can’t cut a tree down and it falls on your house?

      • June Smith

        No – if a tree comes down during a storm – it’s defined as an act of God. Convenient, huh?

  • Stop the Insanity

    Sadly I am to blame for one of the regulations changes. I made a change that was fully allowed meeting the “No application needed” standards put out by the DRB. After a review the change was deemed a violation because they didn’t like it. Now lo and behold there is a change to the guidelines that seem exactly written to make my original change a violation. In fact some of the language seemed to have been plucked out from my application in defense of the change.

    The point being, even if you follow the rules they seem to make them up as they go along. I keep wondering why there isn’t an RA provided ombudsman and a lawyer for the RA Members to protect themselves from the overreach of the DRB.

    • edgyone

      A member advocate would go against the feudal nature of RA.

  • Mike M

    The natural state: Look at any photograph of this area from 70 years ago and you will see that the Reston area was like the rest of NoVa – open pasture and cropland gouged by streambeds. Very, very few trees. That was this area’s state for about 200 years before that. What it means is that we live in a forest that is not that old but ripe for the fall of many of it’s oldest trees first generation trees. It’s an important reality to keep in mind when you work self-righteously to defend the “natural state” of a place.

  • June Smith

    Well, I guess Mother Nature told RA what she thought about RAs Tree Removal. She took down hundreds of trees and didn’t even bother to fill out a form to request permission. My guess is RA will not fine Mother Nature – even RA knows, “it’s not nice to threaten Mother Nature”


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