Question: I am wondering who makes decisions re: landscaping in McLean? Specifically, the section in front of the Madison Building was replanted with an array of non-native plants, which is a missed opportunity on many counts.
Answer: The owner of the Madison Building, on Old Chain Bridge Road, recently re-landscaped his property as part of a rezoning application approved in 2009. The application review process took over a year and included an evaluation by the County’s Urban Forestry Department. The Urban Forester reviews landscape plans to insure there is adequate planting space, species diversity, and compliance with the 10-year tree canopy requirements. The Urban Forester also reviews whether proposed landscaping provides for native or desirable species.
Plants that are considered overused, structurally weak, susceptible to insect and disease problems, or are considered invasive in the Mid-Atlantic region are either not allowed or receive no credit toward meeting the 10-year canopy requirement. In order to obtain approval, the Madison Building was required to remove several diseased or dying invasive trees, such as Bradford Pears, and replace them with native trees including Magnolia Virginiana, Magnolia Grandiflora, and Tila Americana.
While the Urban Forester recommends that native shrubs and ground covers be used to the greatest extent practical, there are situations where non-native plants will survive in extremely harsh conditions, such as immediately along a roadway. In these instances, the developer’s arborist, in consultation with the County’s Urban Forester, is allowed to select plant species he believes will best suit the environment. While nearly 70 percent of the plant species at the Madison Building are native, some allowance had to be made to allow for non-native species because of the urban nature of the site.
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