In 2010, the issue at hand concerned a specific homeowner who wanted to put solar panels on his house and needed to remove an old silver maple to do so. In exchange for permission to remove the tree, the landowner was being asked to plant 23 trees or pay $4,000 into the City's tree fund. The Washington Post talks about the story in more detail
The conflict involved at least two issues - should solar panels count for any kind of credit when offsetting the impact of a removed tree and whether - if there is a disagreement between the arborist and a homeowner - the homeowner should have a clear option to appeal a decision.
I supported (and still support) giving some sort of credit to homeowners who are requesting a tree permit for the purposes of doing something else for the environment as beneficial as solar panels are. I also support having a better appeal process so that a homeowner who disagrees with the arborist has additional recourse.
In addition, the City really only gives credit for tall canopy trees but studies show that the cooling effects of trees on houses are most important on the walls – not well-insulated roof – of houses. Thus, in 2010 I also talked in testimony to City Council about whether there were ways to allow removal of a 60-80 foot tree and replacement with (native) trees that would only grow to 40 feet (maples for example) – that outcome would be a win because a homeowner would be getting cheaper, greener energy, maturing new trees would eventually shade and cool house walls, trees would still catch storm runoff and more wildlife habitat would be created.
I've dedicated my life to environmental work, earning a PhD in Conservation Biology and serving as senior ecologist for a national environmental group with half a million members - I love Takoma Park in part for its trees and believe we should set a goal for the City of trying to get from our current 59% tree cover to 60 or 65 percent. But I believe we can only do so by building a little more public support for tree policies by being slightly more flexible in how the City interacts with homeowners and through more education. If we focus only on punitive process requirements and lose sight of the goal of protecting and growing our urban forest, we all lose.