June 4, 2018 /
Kristin Taddei, Planning Advocate

St. Paul’s Townhomes Development Win

In order to help the District reach its 40 percent tree canopy goal by 2032 – a challenge given the increasing pace of development in the nation’s capital – Casey Trees advocates for more sustainable plans that protect existing trees and achieve a net gain in tree canopy.

In early 2016, Casey Trees learned of a new development at 3015 4th Street NE. The development team planned to construct 78 townhouses just west of historic St. Paul’s College, where 165 trees stand today.

The largest of these trees comprise a shady tree grove along 4th Street NE. This grove of 73 trees includes 33 mature Special Trees, those protected by D.C.’s Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002.

Because of their grandeur, these trees serve as a valuable community amenity, adding value and privacy to the homes of nearby residents, and managing pollution, flooding, erosion, and extreme temperatures.


The development team’s original plan for this site showed 78 rowhomes. That plan would have meant removing all but 3 of the 73 trees, including 24 Special Trees.

Casey Trees submitted recommendations in December 2016 requesting a reconfiguration of the townhomes to preserve the grove of mature trees along 4th Street NE. The development team was receptive to this feedback and revised their plans significantly. New plans showed an altered site and roadway configuration with 60 rowhomes surrounding the existing grove of trees. Casey Trees’ analysis showed that the updated plan would provide a 30% tree canopy and preserve 37 trees, including 18 Special Trees.

The zoning hearing for this development was rescheduled multiple times during 2017, but when it finally took place in April 2018, Casey Trees testified, requesting a detailed tree protection and replacement plan as a condition of support. This required the development team to commit to replacing every tree removed with at least 3 new trees. In addition, Casey Trees requested that the current level of tree diversity be maintained, and that a 30% tree canopy goal be adopted for the entire site.

At a follow-up zoning hearing in May 2018, Boundary Companies provided the requested plan and testified on the record, agreeing to implement these measures.

These commitments will ensure that tree canopy is gained, not lost, with the construction of this development. We look forward to continuing to work with the development team to ensure this new development in our corner of Northeast Washington, D.C. is ultimately a shining example of environmentally conscious design.

As a Planned Unit Development (PUD), this project was required to provide a community benefits package in exchange for greater zoning flexibility. These negotiations take place at zoning hearings. Interested in learning more about how you can influence projects like this one at future zoning hearings? Join us on Saturday, June 23 for our advocacy workshop, Stand Up for Trees. This workshop is the first step towards becoming a Certified Tree Advocate with Casey Trees. Certified Tree Advocates receive training to become successful advocates for trees in Washington, D.C. and gain access to exclusive tools, resources, and events to ensure that D.C. continues to be the City of Trees.