The Edmonds Citizens’ Tree Board, created in 2010 by the City Council (Ordinance 3807), advises the council and mayor on tree-related issues. Among other things, the Tree Board is tasked with “developing a tree ordinance designed to preserve and protect existing trees” and “encouraging the Edmonds citizenry to become active stewards of the urban forest.” With a dedicated volunteer group of Edmonds citizens, the Tree Board’s unofficial motto is “right tree, right place.” Many on the board have wonderful memories of being outdoors and enjoying trees and nature, and we would love to be able to continue making those memories here in Edmonds.
The Edmonds City Council will soon begin reviewing the draft Tree Code. If you have not seen the draft, you may review it here. Last year, the Tree Code rewrite process started thanks to a City Council budget appropriation and supplemental funds obtained through a Department of Natural Resources grant. The City hired a code-writing consultant and received significant contributions from several staff members, notably Senior Planner Kernen Lien, the City’s staff lead in the development of the code. In a recent letter to the Planning Board, Mr. Lien pointed out that the proposed Tree Code revisions are intended to develop “a comprehensive tree code that is easier for citizens to understand and more efficient for staff to implement.
The Planning Board was asked by the City Council to evaluate the draft Tree Code this spring, and they have offered suggestions and asked questions about the background behind the code. The Planning Board and others have asked about new permit fees. While it is true that removal of 6-inch or larger trees will require a permit, the permit fees have not yet been determined and will not be part of the Tree Code. And to clarify another question that has come up: the 6-inch size noted above and in the code’s definition of “significant tree” is the diameter (thickness) of the trunk at approximately 4.5 ft above the ground.
In recent months, a few people have attended our meetings to ask more about the Tree Code, including several comments about pruning regulation. Pruning trees on private property will not be regulated by the proposed code revision (topping trees is not considered “pruning” and will generally not be permitted). Right of way tree pruning will be regulated as a safety precaution designed to protect people and vehicles that could be threatened by limbs falling during pruning activities in the public right of way. In our view it is appropriate and good practice to regulate this activity so that the City can have the opportunity to evaluate hazards and minimize risk exposure. Depending on the location and the pruning planned, protection may include temporary closure of a sidewalk or street during the pruning to keep the area safe.
Homeowners who have big trees on their properties enjoy their shade and beauty. Additionally, and more importantly, they can expound on the benefits these workhorses do for the environment, including electricity and natural gas conservation, air quality, and reduction of atmospheric carbon. They should be commended. Fortunate homeowners with big trees have the cleanest air on the block! What an opportunity to educate friends and neighbors to appreciate these marvels. And in this day and age, we should also not overlook the fact that tree canopy cover helps mitigate global climate change.
Trees also reduce stormwater runoff, and in Edmonds we are all familiar with the flooding problems downtown, which are a direct result of limited capacity in the storm drainage system. With scarce funding for infrastructure upgrades, an alternative we can all embrace would be to do more individually to reduce stormwater runoff throughout the city. Trees help do that.
The Tree Board would appreciate your support of the draft Tree Code! Read the draft on the City’s website here, and come out to the Planning Board Public Hearing May 27 at 7:00 at the City Council Chambers. If you have questions you may contact me at email@example.com.
— By Steve Hatzenbeler, Edmonds Citizens’ Tree Board Chair