Chapter 16.18
LAND CLEARING

Sections:

16.18.010    Purpose.

16.18.020    Definitions.

16.18.030    Applicability.

16.18.040    Clearing activities not requiring a permit.

16.18.050    General requirements.

16.18.060    Performance assurance.

16.18.070    Appeals.

16.18.080    Violation – Enforcement and penalty.

16.18.010 Purpose.

This chapter is adopted for the following purposes:

A. To promote the public health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of the city;

B. To preserve and enhance the city’s physical and aesthetic character by preventing indiscriminate removal or destruction of trees and ground cover on undeveloped and partially developed property;

C. To promote land development practices that result in a minimal disturbance to the city’s vegetation and native soil structure and protect infiltration capacity;

D. To minimize surface water and ground water runoff and diversion and to prevent erosion and reduce the risk of slides;

E. To minimize the need for additional storm drainage facilities;

F. To retain clusters of trees for the abatement of noise and for wind protection;

G. To promote building and site planning practices that are consistent with the city’s natural topographical and vegetational features while at the same time recognizing that certain factors such as condition (e.g., disease, danger of falling, etc.), proximity to existing and proposed structures and improvements, interference with utility services, protection of scenic views, and the realization of a reasonable enjoyment of property may require the removal of certain trees and ground cover;

H. To reduce siltation and water pollution in island waters;

I. To implement the goals and objectives of the Washington State Environmental Policy Act; and

J. To implement and further the city’s comprehensive plan. (Ord. 2015-03 § 2, 2015: Ord. 2003-16 § 1, 2003. Formerly 15.18.010)

16.18.020 Definitions.

“Clearing” means the destruction or removal of vegetation by manual, mechanical, or chemical methods.

“Significant tree” means: (1) an evergreen tree 10 inches in diameter or greater, measured four and one-half feet above existing grade; or (2) a deciduous tree 12 inches in diameter or greater, measured four and one-half feet above existing grade; (3) in the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts, any tree eight inches in diameter or greater, measured four and one-half feet above existing grade; or (4) all trees located within a required critical area buffer as defined in Chapter 16.20 BIMC.

“Vegetation” means plant matter, including trees, shrubs and ground cover. (Ord. 2015-03 § 2, 2015: Ord. 2003-16 § 1, 2003. Formerly 15.18.020)

16.18.030 Applicability.

A. No person, corporation, or other legal entity shall engage in or cause clearing in the city without having obtained a land clearing permit from the planning director or designee. No person, corporation, or other legal entity shall cut, trim, remove, clear or damage any vegetation or trees within the following areas without obtaining a clearing permit from the planning director or designee: any critical areas, shoreline areas or their buffers as defined in and regulated by Chapter 16.12 or 16.20 BIMC. This standard also applies to landscape buffers, open space areas, or trees retained through a land use permit under BIMC Titles 17 or 18, including adjacent properties.

B. For properties located outside of the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts, a clearing permit is required for removing more than six significant trees, but no more than 5,000 board feet of timber (including live and dead standing timber) for personal use in any 12-month period. To cut/remove more than 5,000 board feet of timber, a vegetation management permit may be required pursuant to Chapter 16.22 BIMC, in addition to a permit from the Department of Natural Resources. See tree removal permit process flow chart, Figure 16.18.

C. For properties located within the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts, a clearing permit is required for removing any significant tree, as defined by BIMC 16.18.020. For existing development subject to tree requirements or conditions applied through an approved land use or development permit, see exemption in BIMC 16.18.040.C. For other properties in these districts, clearing permits will only be approved if the applicant demonstrates that at least one of the following criteria is met, as determined by the director or their designee:

1. The tree is diseased, dead or otherwise determined to be a hazardous tree as determined by a qualified professional pursuant to BIMC 18.15.010.C.1.c; or

2. The removal is necessary to enable construction or reasonable use of the property, and no other alternative is feasible; or

3. The removal is necessary to maintain utilities, access, or fulfill the terms of an easement or covenant recorded prior to the adoption of the ordinance codified in this chapter.

D. In the event of a conflict between the requirements of this chapter and any other requirement of the Bainbridge Island Municipal Code, the more restrictive requirement shall apply. Additional permits may be required if the activities are regulated by other chapters such as, but not limited to, Chapter 15.20 BIMC, Surface and Storm Water Management, Chapter 16.12 BIMC, Shoreline Master Program, Chapter 16.20 BIMC, Critical Areas, and Chapter 16.22 BIMC, Vegetation Management. Clearing of more than 7,000 square feet shall meet the stormwater management minimum standards outlined in Chapter 15.20 BIMC. See tree removal permit process flow chart, Figure 16.18. (Ord. 2015-03 § 2, 2015: Ord. 2003-16 § 1, 2003. Formerly 15.18.030)

16.18.040 Clearing activities not requiring a permit.

A. Clearing of up to six significant trees, as defined in BIMC 16.18.020, in any 12-month period. This exemption does not apply to: any critical areas, shoreline areas or their buffers as defined in and regulated by Chapter 16.12 or 16.20 BIMC, other protected vegetated areas, or in the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts, pursuant to BIMC 16.18.030;

B. Clearing of up to 2,500 square feet of land in any 12-month period; any amount of clearing is subject to the stormwater pollution prevention standards of Chapter 15.20 BIMC. This exemption does not apply to: any critical areas, shoreline areas or their buffers as defined in and regulated by Chapters 16.12 or 16.20 BIMC, or other protected areas, pursuant to BIMC 16.18.030;

C. Clearing as part of a development where clearing limits and/or tree retention and landscape requirements have been set and erosion control plans approved as part of the approval for the development; provided, that land clearing in connection with such projects shall take place only after a land use or development permit has been issued by the city and shall be in accordance with such permit;

D. The installation and maintenance of fire hydrants, water meters, and pumping stations, and street furniture by the city or utility companies or their contractors;

E. Removal of trees and ground cover in emergency situations involving immediate danger to life or structure or substantial fire hazards. If one is required, a clearing permit shall be obtained as soon as possible after the emergency situation is stabilized;

F. Routine gardening and landscape maintenance of existing landscaped areas on developed lots, including pruning, weeding, planting, mowing, and other activities associated with maintaining an already established landscape;

G. Agricultural management of existing farmed areas;

H. Routine maintenance activities, including tree removal, removal of invasive vegetation, and thinning required to control vegetation on road and utility rights-of-way;

I. Forest practices regulated by the Department of Natural Resources under Chapter 76.09 RCW. (Ord. 2015-03 § 2, 2015: Ord. 2003-16 § 1, 2003. Formerly 15.18.040)

16.18.050 General requirements.

A. Submittal Requirements. A complete application for a land clearing permit shall be submitted on the application form provided by the city, together with information required under Chapter 15.20 BIMC for a completed application, and including the following:

1. A plot plan on a base map provided by the applicant or by the city containing the following information:

a. Date of drawing or revision, north arrow, adjoining roadways and appropriate scales;

b. Prominent physical features of the property including, but not limited to, geological formations, critical areas and watercourses;

c. General location, type, range of size, and conditions of trees and ground cover;

d. Identification by areas, of trees and areas of ground cover that are to be removed, and information on how the trees or areas are delineated in the field;

e. Any existing improvement on the property including, but not limited to, existing cleared areas, structures, driveways, ponds, and utilities;

f. Information indicating the method of drainage and erosion control during and following the clearing operation; and

g. Information on how property lines are identified.

2. Payment of the land clearing application fee in the amount established by resolution of the city council.

B. After-the-Fact Clearing Permit. In the event of unauthorized clearing, an after-the-fact clearing permit may be issued if the applicant meets all of the conditions listed in this chapter and any other applicable regulations or remedies. The fee for an after-the-fact clearing permit shall be established by resolution of the city council.

1. If significant trees are removed in the Mixed Use Town Center/High School Road zoning districts, and the criteria of BIMC 16.18.030.C cannot be met, then such an after-the-fact must be denied, and replanting required at a 1:1 tree unit ratio, using the tree unit conversion method described in BIMC 18.15.010.G.5. The city shall also collect a fine equal to the value of the tree(s) determined by the current standards of the International Society of Arboriculture. See BIMC 16.18.080.

C. The planning director shall grant a clearing permit application if the application meets the requirements of this chapter and all other relevant city codes, including but not limited to Chapters 15.20, 16.12, 16.20, and 16.22 BIMC. If the clearing permit is denied, it may be appealed pursuant to BIMC 16.18.070.

D. Approved clearing plans shall not be amended without authorization of the planning director.

E. No work authorized by a clearing permit shall commence until a permit notice has been posted by the applicant on the subject property at a conspicuous location. The notice shall remain posted in said location until the authorized clearing has been completed.

F. Any clearing permit granted under this chapter shall expire one year from the date of issuance. Upon a showing of good cause, a clearing permit may be extended for six months by the planning director.

G. A clearing permit may be suspended or revoked by the planning director because of incorrect information supplied or any violation of the provisions of this chapter.

H. Failure to obtain forest practice application, where applicable, with the stated intent of land conversion as defined in RCW 76.09.020(4) shall be grounds for denial of any and all applications for permits or approvals, including building permits and subdivision approvals, relating to nonforestry uses of the land for a period of six years, in accordance with RCW 76.09.060(3)(b). (Ord. 2015-03 § 2, 2015: Ord. 2003-16 § 1, 2003. Formerly 15.18.050)

16.18.060 Performance assurance.

A. The planning director may require, as a condition to the granting of a permit, that the applicant furnish a performance assurance in a form approved by the planning director to the city to secure the applicant’s obligation, after the approved land clearing has been accomplished, to complete any required replanting and the erosion control on the property in accordance with the conditions of the permit. The surety device shall be in an amount equal to the estimated cost of replanting and erosion control and cleanup and with surety and conditions satisfactory to the planning director.

B. In order to stay enforcement, the director may choose to enter into a voluntary correction agreement (VCA). This is a civil contract entered into between the city and applicant. The VCA will outline several performance items that will be required within an agreed-upon time frame. (Ord. 2015-03 § 2, 2015: Ord. 2003-16 § 1, 2003. Formerly 15.18.060)

16.18.070 Appeals.

Appeals of the planning director’s decision on a land clearing permit application shall be in accordance with the administrative decision procedures established in Chapter 2.16 BIMC. (Ord. 2015-03 § 2, 2015: Ord. 2003-16 § 1, 2003. Formerly 15.18.070)

16.18.080 Violation – Enforcement and penalty.

A. In addition to any other sanction or remedy that may be available, a violation of or failure to comply with any provision of this chapter shall be a civil infraction and shall be subject to enforcement and civil penalties as provided in Chapter 1.26 BIMC.

B. A violation of or failure to comply with any provision of this chapter shall be a misdemeanor punishable, upon conviction, as provided in BIMC 1.24.010.A.

C. Any fines collected through enforcement of this chapter shall be directed to the city’s tree fund, Chapter 3.39 BIMC. (Ord. 2015-03 § 2, 2015: Ord. 2003-16 § 1, 2003. Formerly 15.18.080)

(Ord. 2015-03 § 3 (Exh. A), 2015)