Trouble in Talus | Tree removal raises concerns

It's ironic that on Arbor Day, April 25, 12 maple and 10 alder, some of them very large, were cut down in the Talus urban village.

It’s ironic that on Arbor Day, April 25, 12 maple and 10 alder, some of them very large, were cut down in the Talus urban village.

Northwest Landscape Services, working for the Talus Homeowners Association removed 22 trees on the Shangri-La trail in north Talus, before being ordered to stop by the City of Issaquah. The trail was there long before the urban development.

In a memo released Monday, April 28, the city said two types of tree removal were occurring in Talus — trees being removed for view preservation and trees being removed for maintenance. When the Homeowner’s Association proposes tree removal per its rules, the city is not involved. Councilmember Tola Marts said the city has limited jurisdiction in this case, yet the city responded quickly as it was flooded with emails and phone calls over the weekend from concerned Talus homeowner’s.

Lucy Sloman, land development manager for the city, said she was contacted at home Sunday, April 27.

“We’re trying to confirm how many trees were being cut, but some are multi-trunked,” she said.

Sloman said since it was the weekend she couldn’t confirm how many trees were removed, but the city approved 18 or 19.

The tree removal was allowed because the trees were located in unprotected open space on the HOA’s property; the city’s tree protection rules don’t apply in urban villages that are still under construction (Talus will continue with construction until at least 2017); and the HOA consulted with the city before starting the work.

“After several revisions and meetings with residents, the HOA recently approved view-protection revisions to their local rules. Based on those rules, the HOA then proceeded to remove the trees,” said Dave Kappler, president of the Issaquah Alps Trail Club.

However, Kappler said closer to 50 trees are marked for removal. He said the plan is to plant new, shorter trees, but the classic problem with Talus, he said, is improper irrigation, which doesn’t give the new trees a chance. He said the open space the trees are on is not unprotected; the landscaping permit requires a plan to insure survival of new plantings and reassurance that invasive species don’t take over, including proof of water supply for irrigation.

Talus Homeowner’s Association president Barb Leland has served as president since September 2013. She said the HOA does plan to irrigate new plantings by having the landscapers come through and water. Leland said the project was pre-permitted. She said they will replant with 63 trees, including vine maple, cherry trees and flowering dogwood.

Talus homeowner, George Wangersky, said at first some alders were taken out a few weeks ago, and he wasn’t too concerned. But when he heard chain saws fire up behind his house Friday morning, that was a different story.

“Talus sent a letter on April 8 that they were going to do this — I asked for a plan, and the next thing I know the chain saws started,” he said.

Every deciduous tree in the greenbelt behind his home and homes of his neighbors on Wilderness Drive is marked with a red “X” to come down. Wangersky said they were frantic, and “frankly emotional because they were cutting everything in sight.”

Wangersky said the board had not made an effort to involve them. His neighbor Robin Avni, said the HOA may have sent out notices but their communication wasn’t received. Wangersky said the HOA will plan a meeting at a particular location and change it at the last minute.

“Their meetings are always a moving target,” he said. “A lot of the problem is we don’t get the information.”

Avni said she was told one of the board members is one of the people who want a better view.

Leland said that’s not true.

“This has been going on for seven months,” she said. “We’ve had board updates and called individual homeowners.”

Everything behind Paul Boone’s home — a few doors down from Wangersky, is marked to come down.

“The devastation already incurred is a major eyesore,” Boone said.

Boone said 11 7-to-8-inch diameter alders had been removed two weeks prior, and the homeowners had been led to believe that was the completion of the process. Leland said alder removal is necessary because they tend to take over and are hazardous.

Boone was the one who sent a letter to the mayor and city council Saturday, April 26.

“On April 24 the landscapers marked 202 more trees to be cut. I do not understand why they want to destroy the cascara and vine maples; there can be no reason for that,” Boone said.

“As they were marking trees, my wife inquired whether all marked trees would be cut. She was told yes. She asked whether all trees would be marked. She was told no, but then they proceeded to mark all trees anyway (except the conifers). We received notice of the plans by the HOA only after cutting had already begun earlier this month, and the plan stated that cutting was to be completed prior to the trees leafing. The trees have leafed well now, and yet they started cutting in earnest yesterday. Only six households in all of Talus were notified of the plans at all, but there are many dozens more families affected by this.”

Avni and Wangersky said the homes in Talus haven’t been there long enough for any of the trees to have grown appreciably to change the view the homes above them had when they moved in.

“We are informed that this is for view-protection,” Boone said. “But whose view is being protected and whose is being sorely damaged? There must be compromises, and clear cutting is rarely viewed by anyone as a compromise. We are even in fear of erosion behind our stone walls, damage to existing native plants, and the probability that the maple stumps are to be treated with large amounts of herbicides uphill from our gardens.”

Wangersky echoed Boone’s fear of erosion — or worse.

Leland said Talus is a view community and that people appreciate their views — and the natural environment and privacy that the trees provide.

“We’re trying to represent everyone’s interest,” Leland said. “We have a full landscaping plan for Talus. We’re getting a lot of unfair criticism. We’re very committed to a beautiful Talus for everyone.”

She said they have no intention of touching any of the evergreens, just the multi-stem maples and alders.

The Talus neighborhood is based on the concept of smart growth. By clustering development in the urban village, the community enjoys more than 460 acres of surrounding open space.

An arborist who came out Monday morning identified one of the trees cut down was a conifer, which is strictly forbidden in Issaquah.

Boone said he’s learned a lot in the past 48-hours about contradictory rules in the HOA.

“What I’ve looked at so far, the view protection laws are sort of carte-blanche to start taking out trees. Evidently the board is anti-green,” he said.

He said more neighbors have shown up describing green areas near their homes which have been decimated without their knowledge.

“There’s no method to the madness,” Boone said. “I have nothing against view preservation, but this seems to be view creation.”

Sloman said the city has been working collaboratively with Northwest Landscape to review and approve its maintenance activities with regard to tree removal.

“As reported to the city this weekend, the extent of proposed tree removal may not be consistent with the development agreement or with the proposal we reviewed,” she said in her memo.

The city will use the stop-work order to ensure that further actions are consistent with the development agreement and its previous reviews.

A town hall meeting took place Thursday night after The Reporter’s deadline. The HOA has indicated it will not remove any more trees until after the meeting.


This is what you see when you start walking up the Shangri-La trail.

All of these trees were marked to be removed.


This is what the homeowner’s don’t want. This was an attempt to replant in another area of Talus where the native trees were removed. Homeowner George Wangersky said this is after a few years. Talus homeowner’s association president Barb Leland acknowledged that this area needs to be re-planted.