November 3, 2010

Seattle trimming its tree retention ordinance

By Seattle trimming its tree retention ordinance

Author: Daniel Himebaugh

The City of Seattle is taking some concrete steps toward eliminating its "exceptional tree ordinance," reports The Seattle Times.  New proposed rules that would repeal retention standards for large trees and do away with permitting for tree removal have been released for public comment, and will soon be presented to the city council.

According to officials in charge of the code update, the city has decided that maintaining a tree removal permit system is ineffective, hard to enforce, and burdensome for property owners.  Few people understand these problems better than Joshua Robinette, a Seattle homeowner who was fined over $20,000 last year for cutting down a diseased Douglas fir in his front yard.

We called attention to Robinette's plight in June:

"The tree was threatening his home and nearby power lines, with branches that reached to the middle of the roof and roots that ran under the driveway.  [Robinette] called the city's permit hotline, and got the green light to remove the tree.  Months later, however, he received notice that he had violated city code and now faced a huge fine.  Fortunately, he contested the city's enforcement action, and the city eventually withdrew."

While things ultimately worked out for Robinette, it seems that the city's enforcement action against him exposed some of the code flaws that the city is now proposing to fix.  In fact, the Times reached out to Robinette for its latest story about the city's proposed rules.  "Personally, I think if it's your private property, within limits, you should be able to do what you want.  If you have a tree that you don't want, or it's diseased, you should be able to cut it down without a permit," he said.

Homeowners like Joshua Robinette make a lot of sense.  Hopefully, Seattle thinks so too.

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