Chapter 19.10
TREES Revised 6/17

Sections:

19.10.010    Purpose.

19.10.020    Permit requirements.

19.10.030    Seasonal development limitations.

19.10.040    Criteria.

19.10.050    Commission review required in commercial zones.

19.10.060    Tree replacement.

19.10.070    Bald eagle and other federal and state requirements.

19.10.080    Permit applications.

19.10.090    Nuisance abatement.

19.10.100    Appeals. Revised 6/17

19.10.110    Fees.

19.10.120    Enforcement.

19.10.130    Best pruning practices.

19.10.140    Landmark trees.

19.10.010 Purpose.

These regulations are adopted to promote the public health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of Mercer Island, including minimizing erosion, siltation and water pollution in Lake Washington, surface water and ground water runoff, risks of slides, and the need for additional storm drainage facilities; preserving trees for the reduction of noise, wind protection, slope stabilization, animal habitat, and reduction in air pollution; removing diseased or hazardous trees; implementing the city’s comprehensive plan; designating and preserving historical trees; and providing for the delivery of reliable utility service, reasonable development of property and reasonable preservation or enhancement of property views. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.020 Permit requirements.

A. No Permit Required. Except as otherwise provided in subsection B of this section, no tree permit is required for an owner or an owner’s agent to cut or prune trees located on the owner’s property as follows:

1. Outside Critical Tree Area. No tree permit is required to cut any tree located outside a critical tree area;

2. Pruning. No tree permit is required to perform pruning of any tree; and

3. Size of Tree. No tree permit is required to cut any small tree.

B. Permit Required. A tree permit is required to cut a tree as follows:

1. Construction Work. A tree permit is required to cut any large tree as a result of construction work;

2. Landmark Tree/Grove. A tree permit is required to cut a landmark tree or any tree located in a landmark grove;

3. Critical Tree Area. A tree permit is required to cut any large tree located in a critical tree area;

4. Commercial Zone. A tree permit is required to cut any large tree located in a commercial zone;

5. Emergency. A tree on private property may be cut without a tree permit in an emergency situation involving immediate danger to life or property so long as the city arborist is notified within seven days of the tree having been cut, is provided such additional information as the city arborist requests in order to verify the emergency, and a tree permit is obtained within 20 days following the cutting of the tree if a tree permit is required under this section;

6. Public Tree.

a. By the City. The city is obligated to comply with the permit requirements as set forth in this chapter;

b. By Private Property Owners. No private property owner may cut or prune a public tree. A private property owner can request the city to prune a tree located on any city street subject to the conditions set forth in MICC 19.10.040(A)(2);

7. Private Utility Company. A tree permit is required for a private utility company to cut any tree. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.030 Seasonal development limitations.

No cutting of trees located in geologic hazard areas or protected slope areas is allowed between October 1 and April 1 unless: (i) an administrative waiver has been granted; or (ii) it is required due to an emergency situation involving immediate danger to life or property. The city arborist may grant an administrative waiver to this seasonal development limitation if the city arborist determines that such environmentally sensitive areas will not be adversely impacted by the proposed cutting and the applicant demonstrates compelling justification by a geotechnical evaluation of the site. The city arborist may require hydrology, soils and storm water retention studies, erosion control measures, restoration plans, and/or an indemnification/release agreement. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.040 Criteria.

A. Trees on Public Property. An application for a tree permit to cut a tree on public property or a request to have the city prune a public tree located on a city street shall be reviewed by the city arborist based upon the following conditions and criteria:

1. By the City. An annual tree permit will be issued to the city to cut any public trees necessary for public safety, removal of hazardous trees, removal of diseased or dead trees, as part of the city’s forest management program or regular tree maintenance program or for construction work on public property.

2. By Private Property Owners. A private property owner may request the pruning of a public tree located on any city street if the owner demonstrates in the following order that all of the criteria are satisfied:

a. The owner establishes that the tree is located on a city street;

b. The owner submits a valid petition executed by at least 60 percent of the property owners located within a 300-foot radius of the subject tree in favor of the proposed pruning of the tree;

c. The city arborist determines that the proposed pruning can be performed without adversely affecting any critical tree areas;

d. The owner pays a fee to cover all costs associated with reviewing the pruning request; and

e. The pruning is performed by the city but at the sole cost and expense of the private property owner.

B. Trees on Private Property. When a tree permit is required to cut a tree on private property, the tree permit will be granted if it meets any of the following criteria:

1. It is necessary for public safety, removal of hazardous trees, or removal of diseased or dead trees;

2. It is necessary to enable construction work on the property to proceed and the owner has used reasonable best efforts to design and locate any improvements and perform the construction work in a manner consistent with the purposes set forth in MICC 19.10.010;

3. It is necessary to enable any person to satisfy the terms and conditions of any covenant, condition, view easement or other easement, or other restriction encumbering the lot that was recorded on or before July 31, 2001; and subject to MICC 19.10.080(A)(2);

4. It is part of the city’s forest management program or regular tree maintenance program and the city is the applicant;

5. The permit seeks to cut one of the following common, short-lived “weedy” tree species: Alder, Bitter Cherry, or Black Cottonwood; or

6. It is desirable for the enhancement of the ecosystem or slope stability based upon professional reports in form and content acceptable to the city arborist.

C. Trees Cut/Pruned by Private Utility Companies. A tree permit will be issued to private utility companies to cut trees located on public or private property if necessary for public safety, removal of hazardous trees, removal of diseased or dead trees, as part of any private utility tree maintenance program approved by the city, or for construction work. Regardless of whether or not a permit is required, all cutting or pruning of trees by private utility companies shall be performed under the supervision of a certified arborist and at the sole cost and expense of the utility company. (Ord. 08C-01 § 6; Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.050 Commission review required in commercial zones.

A tree permit covering regulated improvements located in a commercial zone, that have previously received design commission approval, must first be reviewed and approved by the city’s design commission prior to permit issuance by the city. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.060 Tree replacement.

Any trees that are cut pursuant to a tree permit shall be replaced on the subject property as specified in this section.

A. Private Utility Company. If the permit is granted to a private utility company and the property owner is unwilling to place any replacement trees on the owner’s property, the private utility company shall pay to the city the amount necessary to purchase and plant replacement trees on public property necessary to mitigate the impact of the removed trees based upon arborist industry standards. Monies paid to the city for replacement trees shall be used for that purpose.

B. Species. In making a determination regarding the species of replacement trees, the city arborist shall defer to the species selected by the property owner unless the city arborist determines that the species selected is unlikely to survive for a period of at least 10 years, represents a danger or nuisance, would threaten overhead or underground utilities or would fail to provide adequate protection to any critical tree area.

C. Size. All replacement trees shall be at least six feet tall, unless a smaller size tree or shrub is approved by the city arborist.

D. Replacement Trees – Number. In making a determination regarding the number of replacement trees required, the city arborist shall apply a replacement ratio based on a sliding scale of 0:1 up to 4:1, depending upon the criteria in the following priority order:

1. Percentage of slope, slope stability, topography and general soil conditions;

2. Trunk size and canopy of tree to be cut and trunk size and canopy of replacement tree;

3. Size and shape of lot and area available to be replanted; and

4. Proximity to any critical tree area and/or the existence and retention of vegetative cover in any critical tree area.

E. Maintenance of Replacement Trees. The applicant shall maintain all replacement trees in a healthy condition for a period of two years after planting. The applicant shall be obligated to replant any replacement tree that dies, becomes diseased or is removed during this two-year time period. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.070 Bald eagle and other federal and state requirements.

In addition to any requirement of this chapter, persons must comply with all applicable federal and state laws, rules and regulations including without limitation the Endangered Species Act, the Bald Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as now existing or hereinafter adopted or amended. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.080 Permit applications.

A. Form. An application for a tree permit shall be submitted on a form provided by the city and shall include the following information:

1. General Information.

a. The applicant shall give the name, address and telephone number of the applicant and owner of the property and the street address.

b. The applicant must provide information on the proposed location, species, diameter and number of trees proposed to be cut or public tree proposed to be pruned.

c. The applicant must agree to pay all costs of cutting, pruning, removing debris, cleaning, purchasing and planting replacement trees and any traffic control needed.

2. Critical Tree Area. An application covering a tree located in a critical tree area shall include a proposed time schedule for the cutting, land restoration, implementation of erosion control and other measures that will be taken in order to prevent damage to the critical tree area.

3. Construction Work. An application covering a tree to be cut as a result of construction work shall include the following:

a. Plot Plan. Two prints of the plot plan at a scale of one inch equals 10 feet (1″ = 10′) or larger. The scale and north indicator shall be given on the plan. The plot plan shall:

i. Indicate topography by contours at a minimum of five-foot intervals, and the grading by dashed contour lines for existing grades and by solid contour lines for existing grades to be changed. The entire area to be cut and/or filled shall be indicated, and temporary storage of any excavated or fill material also indicated;

ii. Indicate the location of existing and proposed improvements including, but not limited to, structures, driveways, ponds, the location of building (zoning) setbacks and grade changes; and

iii. Indicate the location, diameter and/or size, and species of all large trees. Trees proposed to be cut shall be identified and differentiated from those trees not being cut. For a permit involving any critical tree area, the applicant shall also identify vegetative cover that will be retained or removed.

b. Restoration/Protection Plan. An applicant shall provide a plan for protecting trees that are not intended to be cut, a plan for conducting all construction work in accordance with best construction practices and a plan for erosion control and restoration of land during and immediately following the construction period.

4. Public Trees. An application for a permit by a private utility company to cut a public tree pursuant to MICC 19.10.040(C) or by a private property owner to prune a public tree on any city street pursuant to MICC 19.10.040 (A)(2), shall include all such information as the city arborist may require in order to verify that all conditions of those sections have been satisfied. If there is a dispute as to whether a tree is located on public property or private property, the city arborist may require a survey, at the applicant’s expense, that is not more than one year old indicating the boundaries of the private property and the public property.

B. City Review. The city arborist shall complete a review and make a decision within 30 days from the date a complete application is submitted unless an extension, not to exceed 20 days, is authorized by the city manager or designee.

C. Permit Expiration. Any permit granted hereunder shall expire one year from the date of issuance. Upon a showing of good cause, a permit may be extended for one year. Any material change in plans or information from that presented with the permit application that occurs prior to the cutting requires submittal of an amended application for review and approval by the city arborist. The permit may be suspended or revoked by the city arborist because of incorrect material information supplied or any violation of the provisions of this chapter. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.090 Nuisance abatement.

A. Trees and vegetation which meet the definition of a nuisance shall be subject to the provisions of Chapter 8.24 MICC, Nuisance Control Code.

B. In addition to the provisions of Chapter 8.24 MICC, Nuisance Control Code, the following requirements shall apply to trees and vegetation:

1. Branches over roads shall be trimmed to a minimum of 12 feet above the road surface. (see Figure 1).

2. Branches over sidewalks shall be trimmed to a minimum of eight feet above the sidewalk and one foot behind the sidewalk (see Figure 1).

3. Street trees and other vegetation will be spaced according to the following spacing requirements to facilitate the safe flow of traffic (see Figure 2):

a. No tree plantings are allowed within a 30-foot sight triangle at any street intersection.

b. Shrubs shall not exceed 36 inches in height above the street level within this triangle.

c. Ten-foot minimum spacing shall be observed for small trees.

d. Hedges are not allowed between the sidewalk and the curb, and must be planted at least five feet behind the sidewalk.

e. Hedges must be trimmed at least three feet behind the sidewalk.

f. Plantings of trees, shrubs or hedges are not allowed between the street/road edge and a ditch. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

Figure 1

Figure 2

19.10.100 Appeals. Revised 6/17

Any person or persons aggrieved by any action or decision of city staff made pursuant to any section of this chapter, may appeal such action or decision to the hearing examiner in accordance with the appeal procedure set forth in MICC 19.15.020(J). (Ord. 17C-12 § 8; Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.110 Fees.

Fees shall be set forth in a schedule adopted by the city council by resolution with any modifications, which will be made from time to time by the city council. Fees shall be based on the time required to review and inspect applications subject to the provisions of this chapter. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.120 Enforcement.

A. Violation. It is a violation of this chapter for any person to fail to comply with the requirements of this chapter.

B. Civil Penalty. The penalty for violating this chapter shall be a fine equal to up to three times the value of the damaged or cut tree or removed vegetative cover, plus the cost of reasonable remediation. Trees and other vegetation shall be appraised according to the method specified by the Council of Landscape and Tree Appraisers, most current edition. Reasonable remediation is the cost to develop a plan of remediation and remove the remaining plant parts or debris, the cost to clean up the area, the cost to replant the area, and the cost to administer the remediation process. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.130 Best pruning practices.

The city arborist shall prepare and distribute educational materials describing the best practices, policies, techniques, methods and procedures for pruning trees. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).

19.10.140 Landmark trees.

A. Designation of Landmark Trees and Landmark Groves.

1. The city shall maintain a register of landmark trees and landmark groves.

2. A property owner may propose to the city that a tree or grove of trees located on his or her private property be designated as a landmark tree or landmark grove. Any city resident may propose to the city that a tree or grove of trees located on public property be designated as a landmark tree or landmark grove. No tree or grove of trees may be designated without the approval of the property owner(s) on which the tree or grove, or any portion of the tree’s branches or canopy, is located. Once such approval is given, however, it may not subsequently be withdrawn by the property owner or by a subsequent property owner.

3. Upon receipt of a proposed designation and the approval of the property owner, the city arborist shall determine whether the tree or grove satisfies the definition of landmark tree or landmark grove.

4. If the city arborist approves the proposed designation, it shall be memorialized in a covenant signed by the city and the property owner(s) and in form acceptable to the city attorney. The covenant shall require that the tree(s) or grove be maintained in a manner that is consistent with the provisions of this section. The covenant shall be recorded by the county auditor. The city shall pay recording fees. The covenant and designation shall be effective from the date of recording until such time as a tree permit has been issued for the cutting of the tree or grove of trees.

5. Upon request of a property owner, the city arborist shall provide reasonable advice and consultation on maintenance of any landmark tree or landmark grove without charge to the property owner.

B. Tree Permit Requirements.

1. A tree permit to cut a landmark tree or a tree that is in a landmark grove as a result of construction work will only be granted if the applicant has used reasonable best efforts to design and locate the project so as to avoid having to cut the landmark tree or any trees in the landmark grove.

2. A tree permit to cut a landmark tree or a tree in a landmark grove other than as a result of construction work will only be granted if the applicant demonstrates that the tree removal is necessary for safety, removal of hazardous trees, removal of diseased or dead branches or trees, or if retention of the tree or grove will have a material, adverse and unavoidable impact on the use of the property the use of the property. (Ord. 02C-01 § 3).