DEVELOPER CHARLES M. FAIRCHILD, who has been threatening the George Washington Parkway area north of Alexandria with plans for a monster high-rise commercial complex taller than Crystal City, doesn't have the necessary approvals to proceed. But he's managed to get one clearance - by cutting down hundreds of trees on the site. National Park Service officials, who have been seeking ways to kill the whole Fairchild project, are understandably furious about the tree murders; but Alexandria officials have even more cause to be angry, since they enacted a tree ordinance only three weeks ago specifically to stop this sort of thing. Mr. Fairchild, who says he knew nothing of the tree statute, has called the affair "a bunch of baloney."

Just how much "baloney" it is remains to be seen, since Alexandria has issued a criminal summons to Mr. Fairchild. Regardless of the legal outcome, this reckless act has created a scarred landscape, and it has aroused even greater suspicions about the way in which Mr. Fairchild's proposed "Potomac Center" has been pushed. The plans keep changing. The last information obtained by the Park Service called for 16 buildings, some of them going as high as 29 stories; proposals originally calling for parking for 4,000 cars have been altered to call for parking for 18,000 cars. For access, Mr. Fairchild has sought in interchange entrance with a four-lane bridge over the parkway, ramps on the Potomac River side and, on the other side, a pair of two-lane service roads with a total of seven separate motor entrances and exits.

A group of citizens is fighting the project and the Park Serivce has proposed buying Mr. Fairchild's access rights. That is all to be good. "Potomac Center" is, as we have said before, a truly terrible idea and should be stopped.