Councilmembers vote to stick with emergency tree-cutting ban, discuss housing authority agreement

Councilmembers, mayor and staff discuss the emergency tree-cutting ordinance.

The Edmonds City Council at its Tuesday, April 20 meeting agreed to have City Attorney Jeff Taraday bring back for final approval next week an ordinance that reaffirms direction of the emergency six-month tree-removal ordinance it passed in March. The measure prohibits the removal of trees greater than 24 inches in diameter from any private property unless those trees are deemed hazardous.

The idea behind the ordinance, which the council approved March 2, is to give the council time to work on additional, more detailed tree regulations to be included in city code — stage 2 of a two-stage process for updating the city’s tree regulations. The Edmonds Planning Board is scheduled to begin work next week on that second stage.

The ordinance prohibits the removal of larger “heritage trees” — defined as 24 inches in diameter at breast height. As an emergency measure, it became effective immediately after its March 2 passage.

The purpose of the Tuesday public hearing was determine whether the ordinance should be continued for the full six months, and councilmembers did hear from several residents who opposed it.

“I don’t think the city council has a right to be telling us what we can do with our own property,” said Kimberly Bailey.

Another commenter, who identified himself as Fred G, said he has several large trees on his property “and I feel that it is our right to cut them down if we need to, if they become too large. I think homeowners should decide what’s best for their property,” he added.

Other residents offered a different point of view, including Kristina Stapleton, who stated that she has landmark trees on her property and she supports the emergency ordinance. “My neighbor has been cutting trees that block my view, and I’m sad to see them go. They’re part of Edmonds and what makes Edmonds a beautiful place,” she said.

The emergency ordinance as written does not cover the removal of trees on properties that are going through a permitted development, such as a project that has a building permit, subvision or land use approval. Councilmember Diane Buckshnis argued Tuesday night that private property owners and developers should be treated the same, and proposed removing language that exempts developers from the tree-removal ban. That measure failed on a 3-4 vote, with Councilmembers Buckshnis, Kristiana Johnson and Vivian Olson voting yes.

Councilmembers then voted 4-3 (Councilmembers Buckshnis, Johnson and Olson voting no) to direct the city attorney to bring to next week’s meeting a draft ordinance that follows the direction of the existing emergency ordinance.

The next agenda item was discussion of an interlocal agreement with the Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) that would allow the housing authority to provide additional housing in Edmonds for low-income households.

A local government agency, HASCO receives federal funding to acquire, develop and operate low-income housing, but it must have an agreement with each city in which it operates. Councilmember Luke Distelhorst explained that while HASCO owns three properties in Edmonds — Edmonds Highlands, Olympic View and Sound View — many areas of the city (see dark green on map below) are not currently covered by the current agreement. This could lead to delays for HASCO in acquiring properties if an opportunity became available.

Under the proposed interlocal agreement, HASCO would still be required to meet all permitting and development requirements, and there would be no associated code, zoning or density changes, Distelhorst said. In addition, the city would not provide financing for any HASCO properties.

The agreement with a regional housing authority could also facilitate possible regional partnerships with neighboring jurisdictions and non-profit organizations for affordable housing intiatives, Distelhorst added.

Councilmembers didn’t take action on the HASCO agreement Tuesday night, but will address it again May 4.

As the meeting neared 10 p.m., it was clear that the council would get through just one item out of five on the new business section of its agenda before needing to extend the meeting time. That prompted Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas to suggest that the city adminstration needed to do a better job of estimating how long agenda items would take. Councilmember Kristiana Johnson moved to adjourn the meeting at 10 p.m., but that motion failed.

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Angie Feser, bottom right, discusses the PROS Plan.

After an affirmative vote to extend the meeting to 10:30 p.m., councilmembers then heard from Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Angie Feser on a proposal to authorize the mayor to sign a $143,000 consultant contract with Portland-based Conservation Technix to update the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan. Feser described the plan as “a six-year guide and strategic plan for managing and enhancing parks, open space, trails and recreation opportunities in Edmonds.”

She noted that the consultant’s proposal includes a public involvement component with specific plans for reaching community members who use languages other than English and people who have low incomes.

Following her presentation, Feser began fielding a range of specific questions from councilmembers but didn’t get far before it was nearly 10:30 p.m. The council attempted to extend the agenda again but further discussion on the purpose and merits of that extension ensued. As a result, councilmembers weren’t able to take a vote before the 10:30 p.m. extension expired and the meeting abruptly ended.

— By Teresa Wippel



  1. Should we allow property owners to remove trees if they are doing so to make room for modest housing?

  2. My council comments would have been directed towards the entire tree code process starting with that March 2 debacle meeting. Having said that, as part of that meeting, I misspoke and want to correct the record as I have so much respect for Duane Farmen and he has been a great steward of our Perrinville Woods.

    Duane, I apologize for misstating the number of trees removed from the grove.

    Herein is the summary: during that meeting I was discussing how Council shouldn’t look at the tree code, housing codes, and stormwater in silos and that trees being cut down are not being replaced by conifers. I gave an example of a 4000 square foot house being built where 57 trees were removed to construct that house.

    In actually, the grove of 35 predominantly mature Douglas fir trees which had an estimated life span between 80 and 100 years old with the tallest tree being 160 ft tall was logged over two days. After the logging there were only four trees left standing. The square footage of the house is only 3,100 sq ft with a 795 sq ft attached ADU.

    On a side note, the truck loads of logs could potentially bring $4,500 per load and so the financial windfall on this logging endeavor reaped about $18k to $20K.

    So, Duane, please accept my apology.

  3. Diane. As a retired developer/builder, There is so much misinformation going around about the tree issue, but one of the most misunderstood is financial benefits of taking down a tree. Financially, trees are a negative. Yes you can get $ for the timber but when the state stopped allowing burning of stumps and limbs the had to be ground and trucked off to a dump site. Always costs more than than the value of the timber.
    And when you start with a 6000sq ft lot with a bunch of trees scattered over it. My prediction on the tree issue is sooner or later a homeowner is going to sue the city on a “ takings” issue and probably win and cost the citizens a big payout.

  4. I would like know if the timbers’ trunk caliber was measured and the height of trees documented to determine the replacement cost of each tree? Would any of the money derived by the property owner or the developer go into investing in the habitat that is usually damaged in general construction? Would this process be part of the `Emergency Tree Cutting Ban’?

  5. Since the size is the only criteria for the ban, and has nothing to do with urban forestry just size, and since the emergency seems related only to a specific developer but currently prohibits only property owners from cutting trees based on size alone with the cover of hazard tree, which is undefined, it seems clear that the ordinance could easily be challenged. It makes no sense, follows no science and interferes with private property owner rights. And many of us have timber rights.
    That said, it isn’t the individual property owners that are the problem. Never was. Most of us love our trees. Spend lots of money preserving them. The City has failed to manage the tree canopy in a responsible way for years and years. The codes do nothing but create distrust. That postcard was a prime example. Homeowners are not allowed to replace huge trees with other safer and suitable trees. Developers are.
    Affordable housing cannot happen under these conditions . The city fails manage huge trees in the parks, and when needed grants itself a variance if say a spray pad requires removal of large trees. Or to accommodate solar panels on the Francis Anderson. Harbor Point clear cut that hill because they could. Nothing was there to prevent it.
    Forest management is a science. Bigger is not better. Crowded huge trees are not good. It is complex and best not left to amateurs to dictate such ordinances. That said, it should and doubtless will be challenged on any number of issues. The first being that the government must show a need to restrict private property rights. Just show the zoom meeting from last night in court, and it is over. City loses.

  6. Following are excerpts from my Public Comments for the Public Hearing last night related to the March, 2, 2021 Council Meeting:

    Ordinance 4217 claims it was effective March 2, 2021. Is this true? Councilmember Fraley-Monillas abstained from voting on Ordinance 4217. As all 7 Councilmembers voted the night of March 2, 2021, did not all 7 have to vote yes for the Emergency Ordinance vote to be unanimous? Does an abstaining vote count as opposition to the Motion if there is no declared “conflict of interest” claimed prior to the Motion?

    Nobody made a Motion to pass Ordinance 4217 as a regular Ordinance.

    Ordinance 4218 has great problems that City Council should consider addressing immediately. After Council President Susan Paine suggested during the March 2, 2021 Council Meeting to continue the discussion about Draft Tree Regulations and Subdivision Code Amendment to the following week, the Council moved on to New Business. That “New Business” involved what would become flawed Ordinance 4217. After the Main Motion on Ordinance 4217 was voted on, the “New Business” Agenda Item was finished. Instead of moving on to the next Agenda Item, Council President Paine made a Motion related to the Draft Tree Regulations and Subdivision Code Amendment. Mayor Nelson failed to tell her that the New Business Agenda Item was complete and the next item on the Agenda was for the 4th Avenue Cultural Corridor Public Process.

    Council President Paine’s bizarre motion was made roughly 40 minutes after she had suggested continuing the discussion about Draft Tree Regulations and Subdivision Code Amendment “next week”. Council President Paine’s motion made no mention of an emergency and did not declare an emergency. Despite this, the City is acting like Ordinance 4218 passed as an Emergency Ordinance. Nobody made a motion to pass an Emergency Ordinance.

  7. Meeting ended abruptly, with Council comments very abbreviated or missed completely. The following is the comment I had planned in its entirety:

    “Incumbents sometimes get stale, but as liaison to the Economic Development Commission, I know that long-time EDC contributor Darrol Haug has not. In fact, many consider him the MVP in the (virtual) room of mental giants there!

    As such, it is with great pleasure that I appoint him to represent me now, so he can continue his outstanding work on behalf of the City of Edmonds.

    I also want to say thank you to my former representative on the EDC, Jamie Reece, who has given SO MUCH to our City through EDC participation over the years. Jamie- you are one of the best people we know, and we will miss your contributions! Happy EDC retirement!

  8. So now that the city has assumed ownership of MY trees on MY property when one comes down through my roof the city will pay for damages, correct? SO looking forward to personally suing Nelson.

    Vote them out. Every. Last. One.

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