TAKOMA PARK, MD – Glenn Williams was hauling his eight-foot spruce to the front curb of his Elm Avenue home when suddenly seven city police vehicles surrounded him. Emerging from the midst of the patrol cars was the City Arborist wearing a Santa hat, who handed him a $1,000 fine for removing his Christmas tree without the proper filing of a tree removal permit.
“This is insane!” exclaimed Williams. “I told my wife we should have just kept our fake tree, but nooooo, she just had to get a real one this year.”
Williams was not alone in receiving a fine for Christmas tree removal in the city. Thousands of residents were hit with fines and stop work orders from the Arborist, who claims he is just following the law.
“The law clearly states that residents cannot remove a tree without first submitting a tree removal application, holding a meeting at the site to discuss options followed by a 15-day public appeal period, and then paying $25,” stated the Arborist. “It’s a very quick and painless process.”
Angry residents took to local listservs to complain about the egregious fines, which immediately caught the attention of the Mayor and city council. “We are going to take a long, hard look at this policy, and when I say long, I mean really long. Like many, many years,” said the Mayor.
The Arborist said he wasn’t trying to be the Grinch, but instead, more like Santa Claus. “Each night I visit every single house in the entire city, and I know who’s been bad or good,” he explained. “Residents better ho, ho, hope they stay off my naughty list!”