Trump golf course trees, violated Loudoun County law

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Trump golf course trees, violated Loudoun County law.

The Trump National Golf Club in Virginia violated Loudoun County law when it removed trees along the Potomac River, according to a notice of violation issued by the county late Wednesday.

The Trump golf course recently clearcut an area along the river on the eastern edge of its property — as many as 15 to 20 mature trees, according to a local kayaker who first noticed the tree removal. County staff visited the exclusive golf club last week to investigate. Now, they say an area of about three-quarters of an acre has been “altered” without county approval.

According to officials, the tree removal violated three sections of county zoning ordinance, all related to not receiving proper county approvals and permits for changes to property within the floodplain.

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County spokesperson Glen Barbour said in an email that the county ordinances regarding work in the floodplain are intended ensure public safety and protect property. “Alterations to land in the major floodplain may impact the property on which the alterations occur as well as other properties located nearby or downstream,” said the email.

The Trump Organization has thirty days to appeal the notice. After that 30-day period, an initial fine of $400 dollars would be imposed, followed by $1,000 every 10 days if the violations are not remedied.

The downed trees were initially discovered and reported by Steven McKone, who teaches kayaking nearby. He was concerned not just because of the loss of trees along the river — they prevent erosion and improve water quality — but because he says the trees were dumped in the river, a hazard to kayakers and other boaters.

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It wasn’t just Loudoun County that investigated the downed trees. Through a quirk of history, the Potomac River — from shore to shore — is within the state of Maryland (most riverine borders are in the middle). Thus, the trees allegedly dumped in the river would be Maryland’s problem, even if dumped from the Virginia shore.

Dumping debris in a waterway is illegal in Maryland. Maryland Natural Resources Police investigated the report of dumped trees late last week, but by then the trees may have already washed away, following heavy rains.

“Natural Resources Police have completed a check of the river and found no current hazards,” wrote spokesperson Gregg Bortz in an email. He advised anyone finding “significant debris or navigation hazards” in Maryland waters to contact Natural Resources Police immediately.

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Virginia does have protections against removing trees along waterways in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, but those protections are voluntary outside the tidal zone. The tidal Potomac ends at Little Falls — the border between Arlington County and Fairfax County (and between D.C. and Montgomery County on the north side of the river).

In 2010, the year after Donald Trump purchased the golf course in Virginia, Loudoun County supervisors considered adopting the bay preservation act protections, but did not do so after pushback from residents.

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