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Chapter 22.14
RICHLAND TREE ORDINANCE

Sections:

22.14.010    Title.

22.14.020    Definitions.

22.14.030    Findings.

22.14.040    Statement of purpose.

22.14.050    Jurisdiction – Public property.

22.14.060    Establishment of the municipal arborist.

22.14.070    Interference with the municipal arborist – Unlawful.

22.14.080    Responsibilities of adjacent property owners.

22.14.090    Permits.

22.14.100    Vandalism of public trees.

22.14.110    Compensatory payments.

22.14.120    Violations – Penalties.

22.14.130    Public nuisances.

22.14.140    Abatement of public nuisances.

22.14.150    Licensing of private tree services.

22.14.160    Appeals.

22.14.170    Severability.

 

22.14.010 Title.

This chapter shall be known as the Richland tree ordinance. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.020 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, the following words and phrases shall have the following meanings:

“Adjacent property owner” means any person owning property adjacent to public rights-of-way.

“Alternate host plant” means one or more kinds of plants on which a pest must develop to complete its life cycle.

“ANSI A300” means the American National Standard for Tree Care Operations – Tree, Shrub and Other Woody Plant Maintenance – Standard Practices. This is a document offering basic performance standards for tree pruning, published in 1995 by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the same as amended from time to time.

“Arboriculture” means the cultivation of trees, including planting, pruning, removal or any other action which affects the growth and maintenance of trees.

“City” means the city of Richland, Washington.

“Community forest” means the sum of all trees and shrubs within the city.

“Critical root zone” means the area under a tree extending from the base of a tree in all directions to an imaginary line 10 feet outside of the drip line or as determined at a preliminary site inspection by the municipal arborist.

“DBH” means the diameter at breast height – the average diameter of a street tree measured at a height of four and one-half feet above the ground.

“Diseased tree” means a tree or part thereof which has become infected with pathogens or has become significantly diseased.

“Emergency” means damage to utility systems, or to a public or private property or an immediate threat to the welfare of persons, due to storm or other acts of God or other accident, which requires immediate attention to alleviate the condition or complete repairs.

“Hazard” means any tree, public or private, with visibly defined structural defects likely to cause failure of all or part of the tree, and be a danger to public safety.

“Licensee” means a person with a valid contractor’s license and/or tree service certification as required by this chapter.

“Maintenance” means the act of pruning (removing limbs larger than one inch in diameter on Class I trees, or larger than two inches in diameter on Class II and larger trees), guying or other approved horticulture practices. “Maintenance” work requires a permit, as opposed to “routine care” which does not. Such work applies to street trees located in or overhanging the public right-of-way; provided, that such pruning shall be done so as to retain the normal canopy and natural figure of the street tree.

“Municipal arborist” means the person appointed by the city’s director of parks and recreation to carry out the provisions of this chapter. The municipal arborist shall manage and regulate the planting, maintenance, protection, removal and replacement of all public trees within the city limits, thus exercising the city’s authority to do so, granted pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 35.22 RCW.

“Owner” means the person in whom is vested the ownership, dominion, or title of real property.

“Permit” means a written approval issued by the city and required for any activity on public trees or within the critical root zone of public trees, including maintenance, removal and street tree planting.

“Person” means every individual, firm, partnership, corporation, association, company or organization of any kind.

“Pest” means any insect, disease or other organism harmful to trees.

“Planting strip” means that portion of the public right-of-way not covered by a sidewalk or other paving lying between the property line and that portion of the street or highway usually used for vehicular traffic or parking.

“Private tree or shrub” means a tree or shrub that is not a public tree or shrub.

“Private property” means any property owned by a person, firm, or corporation, not meeting the definition of public property and not under the ownership of the state or federal government.

“Pruning” means the practice of cutting tree limbs according to standards contained in ANSI A300 and NAA Guide.

“Public property” means any property owned by, dedicated to, or deeded to the public or for the public’s use. City parks, public rights-of-way and other publicly owned, controlled, leased or managed properties are included in this definition. This definition excludes any federal or state owned properties except where otherwise provided by contract or law.

“Public rights-of-way” means improved or unimproved public property owned by, dedicated to, or deeded to the public or for the public’s use, for the purpose of providing vehicular, pedestrian and other public use. Such public property provides circulation and travel to abutting properties and includes, but is not limited to, streets, sidewalks, landscaping, provisions for public utilities, cut and fill slopes, and open public space. For the purposes of this chapter, alleys are excluded from this definition.

“Public safety” means the condition of being safe from bodily harm and/or property damage resulting from tree conditions and/or failures while using public property.

“Public trees/shrubs” means any tree/shrub (inclusive of roots within the critical root zone) whose trunk is located, partly or in whole, on public property.

“Public utility easement” means the right-of-way acquired by a utility or governmental agency to locate utilities, including all types of pipelines, telephone and electric cables and towers.

“Replacement tree” means a street tree provided to or by the abutting property owner and approved by the city for planting by the abutting property owner as a replacement for a street tree removed from a particular location in the public right-of-way.

“Shrub” means a multiple-stemmed, woody plant whose height at maturity is between three feet and 15 feet.

“Street” means that portion of the public right-of-way which is improved, maintained and intended for use by vehicles to provide traffic circulation, primary access to abutting properties and parking. This definition includes all of the area typically located between curbs.

“Topping” refers to “rounding,” “heading back” or any other term that can be described as severe cutting back of limbs as defined in ANSI A300.

“Tree” means any woody plant, which is 15 feet or more in height at maturity, with a single or multiple trunks, often unbranched for several feet above the ground and having a definite crown.

“Tree lawn” means that portion of the public right-of-way lying between the street and private property boundary lines which is generally unimproved and planted with grass or other vegetation.

“Tree service” means services provided for trees by a private individual or company including, but not limited to: planting, removal, topping, pruning or engaging in technical arboriculture.

“Vandalism” means damage, mutilate or destroy any part of the woody structure of trees, that is above or below ground, that affects the short or longer term health of the trees.

“Vision clearance triangle” means a method of providing adequate visual clearance for vehicular and pedestrian traffic approaching a street intersection, as established in Chapter 12.11 RMC, Intersection Sight Distance. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.030 Findings.

The city finds trees are important elements of the environment, which promote and protect public health, safety, and general welfare of the community forest by providing:

A. A vital contribution to the aesthetic character of the community and the region’s natural beauty;

B. Cost-effective protection against weather conditions with cooling effects in the summer months and insulating effects in winter;

C. Economic support of local property values;

D. Improved air and water quality with the absorption of pollutants, assimilation of carbon dioxide and generation of oxygen, and the reduction of excessive noise and adverse impacts caused by noise pollution;

E. A reduction of the adverse impacts of land disturbing activities such as runoff from impervious surfaces, soil erosion, land instability, and sedimentation pollution; and

F. Habitat, cover, food supply and corridors for a diversity of wildlife. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.040 Statement of purpose.

This chapter establishes regulations and standards necessary to ensure that the city continues to realize the benefits provided by the community forest. It is not intended to resolve or regulate disputes over trees on private property that do not affect general public safety. This chapter is enacted to:

A. Promote the general welfare of the city by establishing and maintaining the maximum amount of canopy coverage provided by trees for their functions as identified in RMC 22.14.030;

B. Preserve and enhance the city’s environmental, economic and social character with mature trees;

C. Protect public safety, health and welfare;

D. Encourage site and utility planning, building, and development practices to prevent indiscriminate removal or destruction of trees and avoid unnecessary disturbance to trees within the city and its urban growth area;

E. Maintain trees in a healthy, nonhazardous condition through application of tree care standards contained in ANSI A300;

F. Establish and maintain appropriate species diversity and age classes in order to provide a stable and sustainable community forest;

G. Establish an educational program by which trees are to be planted, pruned and removed. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.050 Jurisdiction – Public property.

The municipal arborist shall manage and regulate the planting, maintenance, protection, removal and replacement of all public trees within the city limits, thus exercising the city’s authority to do so, granted pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 35.22 RCW. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.060 Establishment of the municipal arborist.

The director of the parks and recreation department shall designate an individual as the municipal arborist and authorize such person to perform the management functions imposed and exercise the powers granted by this chapter. For the purposes identified in RMC 22.14.040, the municipal arborist, subject to the provisions of this chapter and available resources, is hereby authorized to carry out the following administrative/management functions:

A. Develop, administer and maintain a community forestry management plan;

B. Administer a program of public outreach and education relating to community forestry and the planting and care of trees;

C. Maintain a licensing program as set forth in RMC 22.14.150;

D. Administer and maintain a permitting procedure for all planting, pruning, protection and removal of trees as set forth in RMC 22.14.090;

E. Establish and maintain an inventory of all public trees;

F. Maintain a community forestry budget to be contained within the budget of the city parks and recreation department that would be partially or completely funded with grant funds. The city may expend funds to plant, maintain, remove trees, conduct inventories, and develop management plans in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, the community forestry management plan and existing policies;

G. To facilitate the proper selection, planting and maintenance of trees in residential, commercial and industrial developments within city limits and the Richland urban growth area, the municipal arborist shall review and provide comment on development applications when such applications are submitted to the city community and development services division;

H. Establish policies to carry out the provisions of this chapter;

I. Perform all necessary acts to ensure that all public trees conform with the community forestry management plan and this chapter;

J. Annually provide public notification of the requirements of this chapter;

K. Establish and maintain specifications for tree planting on public property;

L. Order the pruning or removal of public trees to ensure public health, safety and welfare while considering the health of the tree and other elements of the infrastructure;

M. Declare trees as public nuisances as defined in RMC 22.14.130. Abatement of public nuisances shall be completed as identified in RMC 22.14.140;

N. Remove trees located on public rights-of-way which have been declared to be a public nuisance as defined in RMC 22.14.130;

O. Any trees on public rights-of-way scheduled for removal shall be affixed with a public notice stating the reason for removal. Such notice shall be posted not less than 30 days prior to scheduled removal date unless determined by the municipal arborist to be an emergency or immediate hazard to public safety;

P. To avoid creating public nuisances or damaging public trees, the municipal arborist is authorized to require their protection (including the critical root zone) from construction or other harmful practices. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.070 Interference with the municipal arborist – Unlawful.

It shall be unlawful and shall be a misdemeanor to interfere with the municipal arborist, any city police officer, city code enforcement officer, energy services or public works personnel in the performance of their duties connected with the enforcement of this chapter. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.080 Responsibilities of adjacent property owners.

Any person in possession of private property shall maintain trees upon adjacent public rights-of-way and any trees upon private property, which may affect public property, in a safe, healthy condition in compliance with the provisions of this chapter. Adjacent property owners have the following responsibilities:

A. Responsibilities for Public Trees.

1. Obtain Permits.

a. Meet all requirements and obtain all permits necessary for work done (including, but not limited to, pruning and removal) on any public trees as required in RMC 22.14.090;

b. Meet all requirements and obtain all permits necessary prior to commencing repair of damage done to public streets or sidewalks adjacent to any public trees as required in RMC 22.14.090;

c. Meet all requirements and obtain all permits necessary for any tree planting on public property as required in RMC 22.14.090.

2. Routine Tree Maintenance.

a. Pruning of trees located on public rights-of-way adjacent to the owner’s private real property.

i. Prune and maintain such trees according to ANSI A300;

ii. Topping, heading, shearing or rounding over are not acceptable forms of tree pruning and are not allowed on public trees unless first approved by the municipal arborist;

iii. Except as otherwise determined by the municipal arborist, branches that overhang sidewalks or streets shall be pruned to provide sufficient vertical clearance over the sidewalk and street so as not to interfere with public travel;

iv. Trees shall be pruned to remove dead limbs or other limbs that are considered a public nuisance as defined in RMC 22.14.130;

b. Control pests on trees located on public rights-of-way adjacent to the owner’s private real property;

c. Provide water sufficient to keep trees located on public rights-of-way adjacent to the owner’s private real property in a healthy, growing condition.

3. Protection/Preservation.

a. Obtain a permit from the municipal arborist before performing any activity that may harm any part of a public tree (inclusive of the critical root zone);

b. Notify the municipal arborist when any part of a public tree is damaged or destroyed.

B. Responsibilities for Private Trees.

1. Routine Tree Maintenance.

a. Pruning of trees located on the owner’s private real property that are considered a public nuisance as defined in RMC 22.14.130. Branches that overhang sidewalks or streets shall be pruned to provide sufficient vertical clearance over the sidewalk and street so as not to interfere with public travel;

b. Control of pests on trees located on the owner’s private real property, which may, upon determination by the municipal arborist, pose a threat to public trees;

c. Removal of all debris (wood, branches and leaves) from public property by sunset of the day on which any tree work is done. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.090 Permits.

No person may perform any of the acts in the following subsection, without first obtaining from the municipal arborist a permit for which no fee shall be charged, and nothing in this section shall be construed to exempt any person from the requirements of obtaining any additional permits as required by law.

A. Actions Requiring Permit.

1. Plant trees on public rights-of-way or in any public places;

2. Prune, cut, remove or otherwise disturb any public tree. This provision shall not be construed to prohibit owners of property adjacent to public rights-of-way from watering or fertilizing such trees;

3. Attach any object to public tree(s);

4. Dig, trench, excavate or pile soil or any other materials within the critical root zone.

B. Permit Application Procedures.

1. Contact the municipal arborist via mail, phone, fax or email, and complete a permit application for the proposed work, prior to commencement of the work;

2. Upon inspection, the municipal arborist may authorize the permit application to perform any of the acts specified in subsection (A) of this section;

3. The municipal arborist may condition the approval of any permit application.

C. Tree Planting Permit Requirements.

1. Each application for a planting permit shall designate the species and variety of public tree proposed. The municipal arborist shall designate the location of the planting;

2. Approval of tree species, spacing, placement and minimum tree well sizes shall be obtained from the municipal arborist prior to issuance of a permit;

3. Whenever any tree is planted or set out in conflict with the provisions of this chapter, it shall be lawful for the municipal arborist to remove or cause removal of the same. The cost of removal of such tree may be charged to the person responsible for the planting thereof.

D. Tree Pruning/Removal Permit Requirements.

1. Prior to pruning or removal of any public tree on private property, application for permit must be made by the property owner or private tree firm currently licensed by the city;

2. Whenever a tree on public rights-of-way is removed, the applicant shall replace the tree removed as a condition of issuance of a permit for removal, unless such requirement is waived by the municipal arborist for good cause shown. Conditions may include a requirement for compensatory payments as set forth in RMC 22.14.110. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.100 Vandalism of public trees.

It shall be unlawful for any person to:

A. Damage, mutilate or destroy any public tree;

B. Attach any device or structure (i.e., tree houses, lights, signs) to or on public trees unless otherwise authorized by the municipal arborist;

C. Store, spill or dump substances, whether liquid or solid, which may be harmful to trees, on any part of a public tree or within the critical root zone of a public tree;

D. Damage public trees through construction activities in violation of the conditions of a permit issued under this chapter. Such activities include, but are not limited to:

1. Making excavations or cuts in the soil near roots of public trees unless otherwise approved by the municipal arborist;

2. Damaging roots of a public tree by compacting or placing fill within the critical root zone;

3. Engaging in any pruning activity on public trees not in accordance with ANSI A300, including, but not limited to: topping, heading, rounding or shearing unless otherwise approved by the municipal arborist. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.110 Compensatory payments.

In the event any person removes, destroys or damages any public tree except as otherwise required by law, that person shall be required to replace such tree with a tree(s) of equivalent dollar value on public property, unless otherwise determined by the municipal arborist. The value of a tree shall be determined by the municipal arborist in accordance with accepted plant appraisal methods as set forth in the Eighth Edition of “The Guide for Plant Appraisal,” published by the International Society of Arboriculture or the same as amended from time to time.

If no suitable location exists in the vicinity of the tree removed or if the replacement tree(s) is of lesser value, the person causing the tree to be removed shall make a compensatory payment to the city equal to the difference in value between the tree removed and any replacement tree(s).

Any public tree that is determined by the municipal arborist to be damaged, but not sufficiently to justify its removal, shall be considered to be devalued. The amount of devaluation shall be paid to the city by the person causing the damage. Compensatory payments shall be paid into a fund established for that purpose and restricted to use for community forestry programs. Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit the city from negotiating agreements with other governmental entities regarding penalties and compensatory payment for removal, damage or destruction of public trees. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.120 Violations – Penalties.

Any person who violates any provision of this chapter or who fails to comply with a lawful order of the municipal arborist shall be determined to have committed a civil violation for failing to correct and shall be subject to a civil penalty as set forth in RMC 10.02.050(E).

Provided, if the same violator has been found to have committed an infraction violation for the same or similar conduct two separate times, with the violations occurring at the same location and involving the same or similar sections of the Richland Municipal Code or other similar codes, the third or subsequent violation shall constitute a misdemeanor, punishable as provided in RMC 1.30.010 for criminal offenses. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01; Ord. 06-10 § 1.42].

22.14.130 Public nuisances.

The following are hereby declared public nuisances under this chapter:

A. Any tree or part thereof (public or private) which, by reason of location or condition, constitutes a hazard to public safety as determined by the municipal arborist;

B. Any tree or part thereof (on public or private property) which obstructs the free passage of pedestrian or vehicular traffic or which obstructs public street lighting;

C. Any tree or alternate host plant or part thereof (on public or private property) which harbors pests that may reasonably be expected to injure or harm public trees. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.140 Abatement of public nuisances.

The following are the prescribed means of abating public nuisances under this chapter:

A. Any tree or alternate host plant or part thereof (public or private) declared to be a public nuisance as set forth in RMC 22.14.130 shall be pruned, removed or otherwise treated in accordance with these chapter requirements. Except for removal of trees from public rights-of-way, all costs for nuisance abatement are the responsibility of the adjacent property owner;

B. The municipal arborist may cause a written notice to be personally served or sent by mail to the owner of the particular property;

C. In the event the nuisance is not abated by the date specified in the notice, the municipal arborist is authorized to cause the abatement of said nuisance. The reasonable cost of such abatement may be charged to the subject property owner. Monies which have not been recovered through the city finance department procedures may result in a lien against the property or assessed on taxes as provided for in Washington. In addition, the owner of the property upon which the nuisance is located may be subject to prosecution under this chapter, or any other chapter of the Richland Municipal Code or the Revised Code of Washington for maintaining a public nuisance. Nothing in this provision shall be construed to exempt any person from the requirement of obtaining permits under RMC 22.14.090;

D. The municipal arborist is empowered to immediately abate any nuisance if it is determined by the municipal arborist to be an emergency or immediate hazard to public safety;

E. If the municipal arborist determines that disposal of the wood, branches and soil from removal or pruning of a nuisance tree is required to complete abatement, such disposal shall be done as required by the municipal arborist. All costs associated with the disposal of material from private trees shall be the responsibility of the property owner. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.150 Licensing of private tree services.

It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the trade or commercial business of pruning or removing trees located on public property, without first procuring a license from the municipal arborist.

A. Each applicant for a license or renewal thereof shall make application to the municipal arborist on a form to be furnished by the city. The form shall be signed by the applicant and shall show such information as may be required by the municipal arborist. Information shall include, but is not limited to:

1. In what name the business is to be conducted as well as the name, business address, home address and telephone number of the company president or owner(s);

2. Proof of current arborist certification with the International Society of Arboriculture by at least one individual on staff of the business in a supervisory position and approved by the municipal arborist;

3. Demonstration that arboricultural work is in accordance with ANSI A300 may be required prior to approval of license;

4. A certificate of liability and property damage insurance executed by an insurer authorized to transact business within the state, such policy of insurance to provide not less than $500,000 or the amount currently required by Washington State.

B. The municipal arborist shall, after examining the applicant’s qualifications, either approve or disapprove the application. If the application is approved, the applicant shall file the application with the city finance department together with the annual license fee. This license shall be issued by the city finance department for the calendar year.

C. The municipal arborist is authorized to suspend or revoke the tree care license of any person that performs work which does not comply with the provisions of this chapter. Failure to maintain arborist certification or required insurance shall also result in suspension or revocation. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.160 Appeals.

A. Any person affected by an order, grant, denial, or revocation of a license or permit by the municipal arborist may appeal such order, grant, denial or revocation to the city manager.

B. Such appeal shall be filed in writing with a $25.00 fee and submitted to the city finance department within 10 days of the date of notification of the municipal arborist’s ruling.

C. The appeal shall be heard by the city manager. Action by the municipal arborist and the appellant shall be delayed until the decision of the city manager is rendered.

D. The city manager may in conformity with the provisions of this chapter reverse, affirm, or modify wholly or partly, the order, grant, denial or revocation of any license or permit.

E. Any person affected by the decision of the city manager may appeal the decision to the city council.

F. Such appeal shall be filed in writing with a $50.00 fee and submitted to the city clerk within 10 days of the date of notification of the decision of the city manager.

G. The appeal shall be heard by the city council. Action by the municipal arborist and the appellant shall be delayed until the decision of the city council is rendered.

H. The city council may, in conformity with the provisions of this chapter, reverse or affirm or modify wholly or partly, the order, grant, denial or revocation of any permit and the decision of the city manager.

I. The decision of the city council shall be final. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

22.14.170 Severability.

The provisions of this chapter shall be deemed severable and a finding by a court of law that a provision of this chapter is unlawful shall have no effect on the remaining provisions. [Ord. 31-09 § 1.01].

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The Richland Municipal Code is current through Ordinance 42-14, passed December 2, 2014.

Disclaimer: The City Clerk's Office has the official version of the Richland Municipal Code. Users should contact the City Clerk's Office for ordinances passed subsequent to the ordinance cited above.

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