The issue in Talus may be more than trees being cut down. Based on the dialogue at Thursday night’s Town Hall meeting held at Eastside Fire and Rescue’s headquarters, there is a huge disconnect between the Talus Residential Association the people who live in Talus.
As promised, representatives from the city of Issaquah came to the first part of the meeting. Charlie Bush, development director for the city, and Lucy Sloman, the city’s land development manager, answered questions from Talus homeowner’s who are fed up with large native trees being cut down in the mountainside village.
But, as Bush told the crowd, “Our role is to interpret the development agreement — we don’t take sides.”
He said the city did approve the work, which removed approximately 22 large trees in a greenbelt behind homes on Wilderness Peak Drive. Bush said when the city heard from residents that more trees were marked to be cut down, the city ordered the work stopped. Nonetheless, the city did approve work to continue Monday, May 5.
“Does this promote Issaquah as the city of trees?” asked homeowner Paul Boone, who was the one who called the city when the cutting started April 25.
The city still administers the Talus development agreement, which expires in 2017. Sloman pointed out that approximately 460 acres were preserved in the agreement — 388 acres of Native Growth Protection Area and 71 acres of open space between development parcels.
Of concern to most of the residents at the meeting is removing trees for view enhancement. Article 10.3 in the development agreement states that “no tree shall be removed for the purpose of view enhancement.” However, the section only applies after the buildout period in 2017.
View versus privacy is one part of the struggle. David Tall, the attorney for the Talus Residential Association, said the foundational documents have to be respected; view preservation rules exist. The houses up higher want their view, and the people below want their privacy.
“It’s going to be an ongoing issue,” said Robin Avni, whose property was affected by the recent cutting. “It’s whoever has the biggest checkbook wins.”
The HOA board seemed a little shell-shocked throughout the meeting. Speaking for the board most of the time, was secretary Jessica Fern. She said a view preservation request was submitted by a resident in 2013 so a rule was put into place. She claimed it was sent to all Talus residents. Fern said it was discussed at seven board meetings and three town hall meetings, “Yet somehow, we are here today. This is not something we’re proud of,” she said.
However, George Wangersky said he reviewed all of the board minutes for the past year and there was not one application for view protection in the minutes.
Beth Lanning with the management company said the application was in the minutes from a March 27, 2014 meeting, which have yet to gone out — eliciting a lot of displeasure from the homeowners.
Since Monday, a privacy rule has been added to the view preservation rule. Kelly Reed, a board-member-at-large since January of this year, said everyone was right — the communication is bad. Residents have said they don’t receive any of the blast emails the HOA sends out, and emails listed on mytalus.com for individual board members bounce back.
Reed, who works for Microsoft, said he is willing to build a better website and fix the situation so everyone is on the same page, but it’s a lot of work and he needed help. One homeowner immediately offered to help. Bruce Bailey, also a board-member-at-large, said he and Reed are building a Facebook page to bring residents together, but that isn’t the ultimate solution either because not everyone is on Facebook.
Boone asked about good old-fashioned communication.
“I think I deserved a knock on the door,” he said.
One very angry resident said the HOA will never work because of the commercial interests in Talus — apartments and Timber Ridge (assisted living and skilled nursing) — because “a single property owner can vote hundreds of times.”
“Do you feel like you’ve set this up?” he asked. “We’ll never get anywhere — this is not a good HOA.”
Sloman said the city did not set up the HOA; it only required one to be set up.
Still, there are more questions than answers to the tree cutting in Talus. Apparently this is not the first time something like this has happened. Residents expressed concerns about slope stability with removal of large trees. Several homeowner’s were concerned about drainage issues and their yards becoming swamps.
“A tree is a view,” said Marilyn LaSalle. “To cut my view for somebody else’s view (isn’t right). We’re all adults — you should know if there is tree, it’s going to grow.”
She spoke of being good stewards of the environment.
“Alders are big nitrogen fixers,” LaSalle said. “Just because they’re ugly and scrappy, there’s a reason for them.”
LaSalle was also concerned about wildlife. She asked Sloman if the city is looking into whether or not the HOA is violating any state or federal rules. Sloman said there are not specific rules in the development agreement to protect wildlife.
“There are thousands and thousands of state and federal laws and the city can’t keep up with all of them,” Sloman said. Again, she reminded the crowd of the 460-plus acres set aside.
But that doesn’t help Stephane and Aida Taine who came home last Friday to find their entire backyard clear cut. The couple said they have zero privacy now, and will have to invest in blinds.
The landscaping company, Northwest Landscaping Services, represented by K.C. Harding, said they admitted they cut too many trees down behind Karen Porterfield’s house in another area of Talus when she confronted him. Porterfield said NLS is not overseeing the project adequately and the workers are not friendly to the homeowners when they are out in the neighborhood.
Harding said they are getting their instructions from the management company. He promised to replant three new trees for each one they took out.
But that doesn’t solve the problem. Boone, a biologist, said he understands biological systems.
“You go disturbing that system, you don’t know what you’re doing. Slow down,” he said.
Irons asked for 48-hour notice before any more cutting is done, or else a restraining order might be necessary. The board and Tall agreed, they would give 48-hour (business days) notice.
“This hasn’t been pleasant for the board either,” said HOA president Barb Leland.
Leland had to end the meeting with a sharp rap of the gavel as it gave way to several conversations going on at once.
Charlie Bush, development director for the City of Issaquah addresses the crowd at the town hall meeting. Seated are Lucy Sloman, the city’s land development manager and David Tall, the attorney for the Talus Residential Association.
Disgruntled Talus homeowner’s listen at the meeting.