Council President Richard Conlin
COUNCIL PASSES INTERIM TREE PROTECTIONS
New ordinance will help to conserve the city’s tree canopy by limiting tree removal and more clearly defining permissible tree removal
SEATTLE – Moving to protect the verdant but rapidly disappearing tree canopy for which Seattle, hailed as the Emerald City, is known, the City Council voted today to establish new interim tree protections that will limit tree removal in areas zoned for single-family, lowrise, midrise and commercial structures.
“It’s critical that the City follow through on its goal of growing our tree canopy,” said Council President Richard Conlin, sponsor of the legislation. “Protecting mature trees from unnecessary removal will contribute to our ability to fight the effects of global warming, mitigate flooding and the toxic effects of storm water run-off, safeguard the habitat of the city’s urban wildlife, and keep Seattle an attractive, vibrant city long regarded for its natural beauty.”
Council Bill 116404 limits tree removal to no more than three trees of 6 inches or greater in diameter per lot in any one year period on single-family zoned lots that are at least 5,000 square feet, or on any sized lot in a lowrise, midrise or commercial zone. It also prohibits the removal of exceptional trees. Normal and routine pruning of trees, trees that are hazardous, and trees whose removal is required for construction of a new structure under an approved building or grading permit are exempt from the new limits.
The bill is intended to prevent clear-cutting of the city’s tree canopy. Trees have great ecological value: they reduce storm water runoff and pollution, absorb air pollutants and carbon dioxide, provide wildlife habitat and shade, stabilize soil, and enhance property values.
The ordinance expands on a proposal originally developed by the City’s Department of Planning and Development and provides greater interim protection to trees in single family zones until a more comprehensive Urban Forest Management Plan is completed and in place.
Councilmember Tim Burgess, Chair of the Public Safety, Human Services and Education Committee, said, “In developing this legislation, we spoke with many citizens and balanced the right of property owners to handle trees on their lots with our collective responsibility to manage urban development to keep our city a vital and desirable place to live.”
The new law also:
- Expands the definition of “exceptional tree” to include the phrase “group of trees”
- Establishes specific rules and regulations concerning how violations of the tree ordinance will be handled
- Establishes a formalized process for review and potential appeal of any violation, and
- Increases the minimum penalty for those that have been found in violation of the tree ordinance from $500 to $5,000.
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