Wednesday, June 17, 2020

America's largest crabapple tree would be relocated for redevelopment of Rockville office building

Tree designated "National Champion"
for its air and water purification
properties, height & circumference

UPDATE - July 21, 2020: The article has been updated to indicate that Montgomery County's assertion that a homeowner has agreed to accept the relocated tree is false; the homeowner has not even been contacted about the matter, much less agreed to accept the tree

A developer has proposed a plan to redevelop a one-story office building at 12500 Ardennes Avenue in the Twinbrook area of Rockville as a residential building. The property is directly adjacent to the City of Rockville, and is indeed partially surrounded by land within the city's jurisdiction, but falls under the planning authority of Montgomery County.

Developer Ardennes Partners, LLC is proposing a 203-unit residential building. It is requesting a 22% density bonus for affordable units it will include, and an additional 10% density bonus for workforce housing units. The project will be 198,718 SF in total, and 100' in height.

A national champion southern crabapple tree currently stands on the property (there are actually several mature trees on the site). It is the largest known southern crabapple tree in America, according to American Forests.

The developer has proposed relocating the tree to a "nearby" site on Vandegrift Avenue. That site is actually about four blocks away on the lawn of a private home, and is not visible from Twinbrook Parkway. However, the owner of the property Montgomery County claims would be accepting the tree tells me she has never given permission for the tree to be planted there, and that she has never even been approached by the developer or Montgomery County about the matter. There is currently a petition to stop relocation of the tree. Montgomery County Planning staff is proposing to require the applicant to be responsible for the survival of the tree at its new location for only five years.
Proposed site plan
A mostly-above-ground parking deck will hold 181 parking spaces. The site is a quarter-mile from the Twinbrook Metro station, and is allowed under Montgomery County rules to provide less than the minimum required parking spaces. An "urban plaza" will be constructed at the corner of Ardennes and Twinbrook Parkway.

It's unclear why the building could not have been configured to instead locate the plaza around the crabapple tree. The developer cites the need to grade the property, the need to construct a new sidewalk along Twinbrook Parkway, and Montgomery County's own demand that it dedicate right-of-way space along the parkway side to the County, as reasons the tree could not remain in place. Staff indicates in their report that the developer will be moving the tree at "considerable expense."

The Montgomery County Planning Board will review the proposed plan at its June 25 meeting. Planning staff is recommending approval of the plan, with conditions.


  1. When large trees like this get "moved," they usually die.

  2. For the record, the developer originally listed this as a maple tree on their site plan, and the county planned to let them remove it until a city forester, Wayne Noll, raised the issue of the tree's championship status in June 2018.

    1. The developer listing this as a maple was their way of circumventing the fact that this is the largest tree of its kind, which might have messed with the developer's plans. They should be held accountable and future site plan approval in Rockville should be contingent a City arborist signing off on the site plan. This is another example of developer-friendly city staff helping their friends and NOT looking out for citizens and taxpayers.

  3. "For the record, the developer originally listed this as a maple tree on their site plan, and the county planned to let them remove it until a city forester, Wayne Noll, raised the issue of the tree's championship status in June 2018."

    You can't have it both ways, it's either county or city regulation. In this case it would be all city, no involvement from the county.

  4. Put a statue of George Washington in the trees place

  5. The tree is hardly a remarkable specimen. Crabapples are not rare or endangered. Vastly more environmental benefit will be derived from hundreds of people living close to transit and not driving, than from this rather ho hum tree. No one is against trees, but let's keep in mind that the trade off here is much needed, transit-adjacent housing.

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  7. Just claim that the tree was planted by a Confederate soldier and watch how fast the Montgomery snowflakes rip it out and bulldoze the property.

  8. Being the largest in southern states, it surely must’ve been planted by confederates! Only ones that occupied this area at that time, judging by the age of that tree! Get rid of it (transport it and replant it elsewhere) and let the developer build the building! It’s only a positive action for the city in many ways!