Letter to the Editor: Cafritz tree debacle worth further review

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These two trees at 5333 Connecticut Ave. NW may be removed after suffering construction impacts. (Alexa Perlmutter/The Current/July 2017)

The Current’s July 26 article “D.C. arborist reports pressure on driveway” regarding the demise of two large street trees resulting from the construction last summer of the circular driveway by Cafritz Enterprises at 5333 Connecticut Ave. NW raises many questions. An arborist is a person has been trained in the maintainence of trees and such. You could check out someone like Treequote.com if you are in need of a tree service. They can easily provide a service that serves your trees needs.

The article reports on a July 24 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3/4G and includes various statements by Michael Chuko of D.C.’s Urban Forestry Division. With respect to these claims, I wonder whether there is any documentation demonstrating that: (1) his agency opposed the circular driveway; (2) the D.C. Office of Planning and then-Mayor Vincent Gray’s office overruled his agency’s opposition to the circular driveway; (3) Cafritz’s traffic planner rejected his agency’s proposed alternatives; and (4) Cafritz committed to a maintenance plan for the trees. Further, I wonder if D.C taxpayers will have to pay to plant the new trees or if the city will bill Cafritz in full and/or penalize it for its failure to meet its maintenance commitment.

In addition, the article states, “An arborist for Cafritz had been expected to speak at [the ANC] meeting but did not attend.” I wonder about this — “expected” by whom? I suspect that Cafritz, attempting to avoid public criticism, told the ANC it would send its representative and then ducked its responsibility once again.

The article also states that “ANC 3/4G supported the public space application for the circular driveway … contingent upon the comprehensive maintenance plan for the two trees,” but then quotes commission chair Randy Speck as saying that “he was unaware of concerns from [Chuko’s] agency.” I find Speck’s claim of not being aware of the agency’s concerns suspect in light of the report that the ANC approved the application only based upon the maintenance plan commitment, which suggests that the ANC (and Speck) were aware of agency “concerns.”

Finally, Chuko’s allegations that the D.C. Office of Planning and former Mayor Gray’s office overruled his agency’s opposition to the circular driveway raise legitimate speculation as to the possible influence of Cafritz’s campaign contributions on those actions of those offices. This warrants probing.

Jonathan Strong, Forest Hills