David S. North ["Home-Building Do's and Don't-You-Dare's," Close to Home, Aug. 22] spoke for many homeowners when he gave advice to contractors on how to make building new houses on old home sites more palatable to the neighborhood.

I particularly cheered his urging builders to spare trees that are part of the suburban landscape. Huge, healthy trees are disappearing lot by lot, acre by acre.

I am not a tree-hugger, but I don't think suburban land should be clear-cut. I have tried to no avail to engage Arlington County officials in a discussion about adding tree preservation to the building-permit process. A former County Board chairman told me that Arlington lacks the legal clout under state law to add tree preservation to the permit process.

If that is true, what effort is being made in Richmond to change the law? The former chairman said private property rights dominate in Virginia law. Yet the permit process gives Arlington the power to tell a builder how close to a sideline he can build and how high he can build, so why can't county approval be needed to cut trees? After all, they're part of everyone's landscape.

I would like to see builders work with a county arborist and with architects and designers to determine how the inevitably larger house can be built in a way that would preserve the most trees. If a tree is felled, I'd like to know that Arlington agreed with the builder that the tree had to go. The builder then should adopt Mr. North's suggestion: Cut the logs to fireplace length and stack them at the curb for neighbors to take.

BEN SHORE

Arlington