Clarification to This Article
A June 29 Metro article on cutting trees along the C&O Canal was unclear on which agency was criticized by the Interior Department two years ago for allowing more than 130 mature trees to be cut down. The National Park Service was cited by the inspector general in that 2005 report.

Md. Man Loses Bid to Cut Trees Near C&O Canal

Aris Mardirossian, with lawyer Barbara Sears, says his kids are allergic to trees on his land.
Aris Mardirossian, with lawyer Barbara Sears, says his kids are allergic to trees on his land. (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 29, 2007

The Montgomery County Planning Board voted last night to reject a prominent developer's plans to cut down trees near the C&O Canal that might affect his allergic children.

Aris Mardirossian, who wants to build a house on a three-acre tract near the canal, said he will go to court to challenge the 5 to 0 ruling.

"It will be good to go to court," he said. "This will be good for Montgomery County, so that everybody will understand."

Mardirossian, 56, contended that the Americans with Disabilities Act gives him the right to cut the trees because his two young children are allergic to the nuts of hickory and walnut trees. Before the vote, he acknowledged that he did not check the property before he bought it to see whether it had nut trees.

"My disabled children who have a nut allergy have every right to live anywhere they want," he told the Planning Board before the vote at a hearing last night.

In a sometimes emotional appearance before the board, Mardirossian said that there was "a political payback" in which a planning staffer and County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) were conspiring to deny him his property rights. Elrich has expressed concerns about Mardirossian's plans.

"I have a right to enjoy the property that I own," Mardirossian told the board. "We love the trees. We love the environment."

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson denied any conspiracy.

"I simply don't understand what you are talking about," Hanson said.

The Planning Board has jurisdiction in the case because it involves trees on a tract large enough that a local forest preservation law comes into play. The planning agency can reject the plans or seek changes if it thinks the environmental damage from cutting down the trees would be too great.

Mardirossian's plans for the property off River Road have reignited debate over land use along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, two years after a controversy over trees that were cut down on Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's nearby property.

Many local residents are opposed, saying the park's ecosystem should not be altered for the allergies of Mardirossian's children, who are 6 and 7.


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