Your Views: Development trumps schools and trees

Your Views: Development trumps schools and trees
(Courtesy photo)

To the editor:

On May 26, CNN ran a story about tree loss. According to David Nowak, a senior U.S. Forest Service scientist and co-author of a recent study, trees can lower summer daytime temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. But tree cover in U.S. cities is shrinking. The study found that we lost 36 million trees annually from urban and rural communities over a five-year period.

That’s a 1 percent drop from 2009 to 2014. If we continue on this path, “cities will become warmer, more polluted and generally more unhealthy for inhabitants,” Nowak said. There are many reasons our tree canopy is declining, but Nowak said the one reason for tree loss that humans can control is sensible development. 

This is important information. When Alexandria decided to build the Potomac Yard Metro station in a forested wetland, it ignored its own principles and threw mud on its label of an “Eco City.”

The preliminary DSUP submitted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority listed 250 trees to be cut, some as tall as 75 feet, and many with a trunk girth of 30 to 40 feet. These trees include giant cottonwoods and tulip poplar trees which cannot be replaced or replicated with nursery-grown saplings. And the forested wetland is not an ecosystem which can be buried under 20 feet of fill and then somehow be repaired when construction is over. 

WSP, the consulting company hired by the city and WMATA, has predicted the new Metro station will spur construction of 12 million square feet of new commercial and residential development and introduce 26,000 new jobs and 13,000 new residents to the Potomac Yards neighborhood.

Great! Who will pay for the services needed by these thousands of new office workers and residents? What schools will their children attend? 

I am the father of a seventh grader who attends George Washington Middle School. Instead of spending millions of dollars on the Metro station and related construction, the city should renovate its schools and hire more teachers. G.W. is plagued by malfunctioning HVAC units, mold, overcrowded classrooms, overworked teachers, lead and copper in the water fountains and outdated, poorly functioning bathrooms.

Four times last winter, G.W. students were evacuated into cold weather due to the smell of gas. An influx of office workers and new residents to Potomac Yards will only worsen the overcrowded and underfunded schools and stretched city services. These problems will never be solved with more development, whether commercial or residential. Less development and more trees sound like a winning combination.   

-Jeremy Flachs, Alexandria