To: Davina.Duerr@eg.wa.gov <Davina.Duerr@eg.wa.gov>
Subject: Concerns regarding HB 1078 to void tree and urban forest ordinances during development
HB 1078 directs that city and town tree ordinances “must allow an option that allows obligations for the protection and management of these trees imposed by the ordinance to be satisfied by the use of a tree bank”
HB 1078 implies that any city regulations to retain or plant trees on a building site can simply be ignored by paying a fee into a tree bank.
The bill declares “In regulating the removal of trees during development, however cities sometimes impose regulations that limit or prevent development opportunities that would provide additional housing, even if the removal of trees in these circumstances would not impair the health of the community.”
The area you remove trees from will lose climate resiliency and environmental services. Existing established trees provide heat island reduction, reduced storm water runoff, decreased air pollution, physical and mental health benefits, wildlife habitat, noise reduction and a sense of place. This occurs lot by lot and can extend to neighborhood impacts also.
The second false assumption is that trees are preventing developing a property but that is seldom the case. Tree ordinances almost always allow developers to remove trees that limit the development potential of a lot. Seattle’s existing tree ordinance, for example, does not apply to “Tree removal shown as part of an issued building or grading permit as provided in Sections 25.11.060, 25.11.070, and 25.11.080;”
This bill needs to be amended to clarify that developers must comply with local tree protection ordinances to save trees when they can and replant trees removed when they can on site but can use a tree bank or tree mitigation fund or tree replanting fund to plant trees elsewhere as needed if they cannot do it on the building lot.
These replanted trees can be targeted for race and social and environmental equity when they cannot be replanted on the building site. All building sites in the city need to require tree replacement, not just those in “noncritical areas.” Replanted trees must have equivalence to the size of the tree removed – replacement fees must increase as the size of the removed tree increases to make up for lost ecosystem services of the tree removed.
HB 1078 should also be amended to say that developers must maximize the retention of existing trees on all building sites like Austin, Texas does. Seattle, e.g., also requires that in its platting and short platting process but needs to extend it to the total building process.
Several additional comments on amending bill:
. To plant trees on public or private property, including streets. Planting trees includes the cost of materials and labor necessary to install and establish a tree for a 5 year period;
2. To purchase conservation easements for the perpetual retention of trees and tree canopy. Such conservation easements shall allow the City to replace trees that are removed when they die or become dangerous; and
3. To acquire land to permanently protect existing trees or groves.
C. Contributions. Contributions to the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund may occur through a number of means, including:
1. Payment made in lieu of tree replacement as part of a tree permit issued as stated in Chapter 11.40;
2. Payment made in lieu of preservation or planting where site or street characteristics or construction requirements make it infeasible to meet the requirements of Chapter 11.50;
3. Payment of restoration fees for enforcement actions for Private Trees; and
4. Voluntary contributions.
D. Administration of the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund. The Tree Planting and Preservation Fund is administered by the City Forester, maintained in a dedicated separate account, and is independent of the general fund. Any balance in the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund will be carried forward into subsequent fiscal years.
HB 1078 seems at cross purposes as stated in the Department of Natural Resources Dec 2022 Newsletter – Tree Link Newsletter – Urban and community Forestry in Washington
“Later that morning, Commissioner Franz announced her intention to seek an $8 million investment from the state Legislature when the 2023 legislative session begins in January. Urban and Community Forestry Program staff worked with DNR’s legislative and policy teams to draft a vision for the program that, if funded, will allow DNR to meet the demand for funding and the needs of our urban forests.”
Steve Zemke, Chair – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest, former Seattle Urban Forestry Commissioner for 6.5 years