The December 2004 tree-cutting on Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s property was perhaps Potomac’s most controversial and far-reaching issue in 2005.
A year after Snyder cleared more than an acre of trees on land fronting the C&O Canal and protected by a federal easement, the County Council voted to greatly increase penalties for violations of its Forest Conservation Law and include the possibility of jail time for some violators.
That action capped a year of debate and public outrage as the story of secret negotiations and botched inter-agency communication leading up to the cutting emerged.
The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission reached an agreement with Snyder Sept. 7 that spared him an appearance before the Planning Board while forcing him to reforest the 1.3-acre cleared area and place at least seven additional acres of forest into permanent protection, at a cost of no less than $37,000.
Critics said that Park and Planning dragged its feet in reaching an agreement with Snyder when it could have gotten the same concessions more quickly by forcing him to go to the Board.
The U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General has opened an investigation into possible federal policy violations at the National Park Service in the events leading up to the tree cutting.
At question is whether the Park Service violated provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires a study of environmental impacts and opportunities for public participation preceding all major federal actions, including land transactions.
MARYLAND’S TAX agency stripped the Bolger Center in Potomac of its tax-exempt status because it said the U.S. Postal Service-owned facility operates a for-profit business.
Local, state and federal officials representing Potomac also challenged the center after Normandie Farm owner Cary Prokos complained that the center’s restaurant and hotel operate on an “uneven playing field.”
Because the Center is on federal land, it does not have to comply with county zoning ordinances or liquor laws.
That was OK when it was carrying out its stated purpose as a training and conference center for postal employees, Prokos said.
But when the center expanded its operations to draw in business from the general public — it hosts wedding and bar mitzvah receptions, Sunday tea service and other special events open to the public — Prokos said it became an unfair competitor to Montgomery County restaurant owners.
The Bolger Center’s hospitality operations are managed by Dolce International, a private, for-profit company.
Dolce officials said that the company’s predecessor, Aramark Corp., also held events open to the public, and the Prokos is alone in his opposition to their operations.
According a 2004 Postal Service operations statement, the Bolger Center “generated almost $6.7 million in revenue in 2004 from non-Postal Service customers.” About 17,000 of the center’s 38,000 visitors in 2004 — 43 percent — were non-Postal Service customers.