Some residents worry about restrictions in tree ordinance

Issaquah City planners are making progress on a new tree preservation code, but public opinion of the plan remains lukewarm.

Issaquah City planners are making progress on a new tree preservation code, but public opinion of the plan remains lukewarm.

Current discussion is primarily based around the amendments to single family homes.

“This is going to make a lot of people angry,” Issaquah resident Don Taylor said.

Planners met with both the Planning Policy Commission and the Land Use Committee in the past week, giving each group an update on the proposed amendments.

Responses from both the Planning Policy Commission and the public have thus far been split 50-50, Senior Planner Debi Kirac said.

The Commission was split, with many members saying that new code was too complex.

“It’s overly detailed — more of a specification than a plan,” Commission member Irv Levin said at the meeting. “It’s too detailed to understand or enforce.”

Commission member Anderi Guschin disagreed, saying, “It’s a very detailed issue. The more details the better.”

Planners began to tweak the code after the City Council decided in 2006 that they wanted a stronger tree ordinance.

The proposed amendments include new limits on how many significant trees — trees with a diameter of six inches or greater at breast height — can be cut down each year. The proposed amendments would limit the number of trees based on the lot size of the single family property.

For proposed amendments about cutting significant trees, see chart on page 2.

The new amendments also include restrictions on trees that could be cut down during a five-year period.

The current code does not require a permit unless more than three trees are removed in one year. The proposed amendment would change that and require a form to be filled out for each tree removed.

“Make no mistake, it’s not a form — it’s a permit,” Taylor said.

He and commission members also voiced concern about where the money for regulation would come from.

The forms would take five to 12 business days to be processed.

“Five to 12 business days seems like a lot of time added for an individual to wait,” Taylor said.

Current code also requires trees to be replaced if the number of trees remaining on the lot falls less than 15 tree units per acre. The proposed amendment requires that for every five inches of trees removed, one replacement tree will be planted. Replacement trees must a minimum of a five-gallon tree. In addition, rather than the 15 tree units per acre, the new code would state that for single family homes there must be two trees for every 5,000 square feet.

If it is impossible for a tree to be replaced, the homeowner may have to pay a fee instead.

Several commission members were still not completely won over after the presentation.

“It’s a lot of rigor for the homeowner,” commission member Sajal Sahay said. “I moved to Issaquah because of the trees, but this just goes against my libertarian beliefs.”

Planners will come back to the commission one more time.

“They want us to simplify it a bit,” Kirac said.

The fine amount for removing trees without approval may also increase, Kirac said.

The planning department will meet with the River and Streams Board on July 15, and then during the months of July and August will work on determining the administration’s recommendation. A open house and public hearing will take place sometime in September, and the City Council is expected to make a decision on the amendments sometime before the end of the year.