New tree code proposed for Edmonds | Looking Forward

By Neil Tibbott | Apr 24, 2015

Trees are a fact of life in Edmonds. We used to have grand old-growth trees dotting the landscape. You can still find massive stumps giving testament to the girth and scale of trees that once grew here.

That was then; this is now. The City of Edmonds is considering a tree code that will significantly change the way trees are preserved.

We have a code, but the new one will involve new restrictions, fees and increased fines.

The impetus for the increased level of legislated protection seems to stem from at least two high profile cases of tree removal.

The first was elimination of trees below Point Edwards, and the second the felling of a tree on Walnut Street in close proximity to a new condo complex.

Shortly after these incidents and the observation that trees could easily be removed and not replaced in Edmonds, the Tree Board was formed by the City of Edmonds to study options for preserving trees on both private and public property.

Funds were secured to have a professionally written revision of the code tapping into best practices in places like Redmond and Snohomish County.

What we now have before us, as a city, represents a grand revision of the way trees are maintained in Edmonds.

The new proposed code would require a property owner to secure permits to cut down or even prune a tree greater than six inches in diameter.

The proposed fee would be $250 for the first two trees, after that it goes up. For trees larger than 24 inches, property owners would pay $820 for the permit and pay additional fees for an arborist to okay the plan. Owners would also be required to submit a tree plan for their property illustrating where their trees currently exist and what changes they intend to make.

This is only a thumbnail sketch of what’s being proposed. There would be new rules for trees in city right of ways, undeveloped properties, abutting properties and more.

Other cities and jurisdictions have tree codes. Most of them in our area do not have the added dimension of view corridors and a well-developed downtown.

According to city staff, the new tree code may require as many as two full-time staff members to administrate the details of the new law. Their duties would include permitting, filing and enforcement.

The Planning Board has been reviewing the proposed code over the last two months. They have heard about the concept, asked a lot of questions, suggested revisions, and will soon have a public hearing.

Looking forward …

There is a public hearing scheduled for May 27 before the Planning Board. On the same evening the board will also hear about ideas for the Marina Beach Master Plan, as well as consider the final draft for the transportation part of the city’s new comprehensive plan.

Public hearings are a great place for citizens to voice their opinions, learn the facts of what’s being considered, and help influence the direction of legislation in Edmonds.

If you want to see more protections for trees, then come talk about it among a gathering of neighbors. If you are concerned about new restrictions on the use of private property, then make a public statement. Either way, plan to keep it to three minutes to give everyone a chance to talk.

Finally, you can become better informed by reviewing the most recent presentation of the proposed Tree Code given to the Planning Board on March 25. Search for the minutes, and scroll down to the discussion of the “Draft Tree Code.”


Comments (2)
Posted by: Ed Stephens | Apr 30, 2015 12:33

If the city truly loved the trees on public and private land they would make an effort to keep them from being topped. Other than that, if the trees are on 'private' taxpayer owned property, they should stay out and keep their fines and fees to themselves. Matter of fact if they want to keep the property owner from pruning or removing 'their' trees, then the city should pay those fines and fees or reimburse the owner their property taxes for the restrictions they're placing upon the property owner. To do otherwise is government tyranny that has no business creating jobs of the 'tree police' meant to punish property owners if they want to do something with their property. Ever heard of property 'rights' city council?

The shakedown of the taxpayers must stop and keep their busybodies out of the homeowners business of their own property. This is just one more effort to not protect trees and property but to impose the heavy hand of government through micromanagement.

Posted by: Steve Hatzenbeler | May 11, 2015 21:24

The Edmonds Tree Board has some concerns with Mr Tibbott's discussion points, as follows:

1) Although the Pt Edwards and Walnut Street tree cases were significant and high profile, they were not the primary impetus for the tree code revisions. The proposed tree code revisions are intended to develop "a comprehensive tree code that is easier for citizens to understand and more efficient for staff to implement," as stated by Senior Planner Kernen Lien, the City's staff lead in the development of the code.

2) Pruning of trees on private property is not regulated in the proposed tree code update. Refer to proposed ECDC 23.20.030, which explicitly identifies regulation of pruning of right of way trees only. Removal of trees on private property is regulated, but not pruning. The right of way pruning regulations are a safety precaution designed to protect people and vehicles using public right of way that could be threatened by limbs falling during pruning activities. In our view it is appropriate and good practice to regulate this activity so that the City can have the opportunity to evaluate the hazard and minimize their exposure to risk. Depending on the location and the pruning planned, protection may include temporary closure of a sidewalk or street during the pruning to keep the area safe.

3) Permit fees have not yet been established, and will not be established in the code. They will be determined at a later date by the City staff after determination of the staff-time cost of the permits. The fees that have been used in discussion of the tree code with the Planning Board in work sessions March 25, 2015 and again April 22, 2015 "were based on the current fee schedule as contained in Resolution 1308 and were used for illustrative purposes," as noted by Senior Planner Kernen Lien at both of the work sessions. It is probable that the administrative staff review permit fee will be quite low, but again, the fees have not yet been determined.

Please do plan on attending the Planning Board's May 27 public hearing at 7:00 pm.

Edmonds Tree Board Chair Steve Hatzenbeler

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