Chapter 16.18
TREE REMOVAL, FOREST STEWARDSHIP, AND VEGETATION MAINTENANCE

Sections:

16.18.010    Overview.

16.18.020    Findings.

16.18.025    Purposes.

16.18.030    Applicability.

16.18.040    Activities allowed without a permit.

16.18.050    Activities requiring a permit.

16.18.060    General regulations and standards.

16.18.070    Tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit administration and review process.

16.18.080    After-the-fact tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit.

16.18.090    Mitigation and restoration.

16.18.100    Performance assurance.

16.18.110    Appeals.

16.18.120    Violations, restoration and enforcement.

16.18.130    Definitions.

16.18.010 Overview.

A. The policies presented in this chapter rest on an assumption that in, the care of trees and vegetation on their property, citizens will be guided by common sense and best practices, responsive to the purposes stated in BIMC 16.18.025. Sanctions shall be applied to activities that are found by the planning director to be reckless and destructive, and to any action or negligence that adversely affects a neighboring property, pursuant to the provisions of BIMC 16.18.120 and other applicable provisions of the code.

B. To a large extent, work carried out in landscaped yards and forested areas does not require a permit (see BIMC 16.18.040). However, property owners who are considering major changes to the landscape and trees on their property should seek advice and professional services from a licensed arborist who is certified by the American Society of Consulting Arborists or the International Society of Arboriculture, or a landscape professional who is certified by the city.

C. This chapter is one of several in the municipal code that pertain to the care of trees, vegetation, and forested areas on Bainbridge Island. Its policies and nonregulatory provisions pertain especially to the plans and ongoing activities of island residents, outside of their homes or places of business but on their own property, when the use and enjoyment of the property involves stewardship and maintenance of trees and vegetation. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.020 Findings.

A. Forested areas and trees on individual lots are integral parts of Bainbridge Island’s character; they enhance the city’s appearance and livability, as well as providing significant environmental benefits and natural resource values.

B. Conserving and managing the island’s forested areas and native vegetation is a central goal of the Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan: see Guiding Principles 1 and 5 and related Policies; Goals LU-6, 12 and 13; EN-3, 4, 5, 18 and 19; WR-3 and 4; and Policies LU 4.10 and EN 15.3.

C. Trees are valued by homeowners and, when well cared for, enhance property values.

D. Removal of trees and understory vegetation, combined with extensive disturbance of soils, cause loss of habitat and wildlife, runoff and soil erosion, degradation of surface water and aquifer recharge, and adverse impacts on air quality, as well as loss of aesthetic appeal.

E. The community forest resources of the island are best understood as a mosaic, with some large and many small pieces, on publicly owned and private properties. When clearing for development further fragments the mosaic, both individual and community interests are affected.

F. On Bainbridge Island and elsewhere, examples exist to demonstrate that development for residential and other uses can be compatible with careful conservation of forest conditions and other natural features; and that such development can be cost-effective, attractive, energy-efficient, and well adapted to our climate. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.025 Purposes.

This chapter is adopted for the following purposes:

A. To promote the public health, safety, and general welfare of Bainbridge Island citizens without preventing the reasonable use of private property.

B. To preserve and enhance the city’s physical and aesthetic character, to promote the healthy functioning of our island’s natural systems, and to provide economic benefits to the community, for the sake of present and future generations.

C. To implement the purposes of the State Growth Management Act relating to conservation of natural resources, pursuant to Chapter 36.70A RCW.

D. To implement goals and policies in the current comprehensive plan, the Community Forest Management Plan (2006), the Bainbridge Island Open Space Study (October 2008), and the Bainbridge Island Community Wildfire Protection Plan (2010), or subsequent updated versions.

E. To promote forest stewardship practices and carefully planned development that results in minimal disturbance to the prior conditions of a property and neighboring properties.

F. To implement a long-range policy of maintaining the island’s forest canopy cover while taking measures to prevent wildfires and protect structures in accordance with recommendations of the Bainbridge Island fire department.

G. To allow limited tree and vegetation removal to provide for solar access, agriculture and gardens.

H. To promote infiltration of stormwater and aquifer recharge; to minimize erosion and prevent pollution; to prevent landslides; to protect the waters of Puget Sound and the quality and quantity of water in wells.

I. To maintain in a healthy state significant trees, clusters of trees, and forested areas, allowing for thinning, pruning, removal of invasive and undesirable vegetation, selective harvest and replanting, developing and maintaining trails, and removal of dead or dangerous trees. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.030 Applicability.

Provisions of this chapter apply citywide to all properties where trees and naturally occurring vegetation are found, except where the following chapters of the municipal code apply:

A. This chapter does not apply to any portion of a parcel that is identified as a critical area pursuant to Chapter 16.20 BIMC, Critical Areas, including designated aquifer recharge protection areas (ARPAs) or prescribed critical area buffers or setbacks. Chapter 16.20 BIMC applies to critical areas, designated ARPAs, and buffer zones, and critical area setbacks.

B. This chapter does not apply to the portion(s) of a shoreline property within 200 feet landward of an ordinary high water mark, where the regulations of Chapter 16.12 BIMC (the Shoreline Master Program) apply. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.040 Activities allowed without a permit.

The following activities are allowed without a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit, subject to any other applicable city regulations:

A. Routine landscaping and maintenance of vegetation, such as pruning and planting, removal of invasive/exotic species, management of brush and seedling trees. Pruning should comply with ANSI A300 (Part 1 – 2017), Tree, Shrub and Other Woody Plant Management – Standard Practices, to maintain long term health. This includes maintenance of trees and vegetation required to be retained or planted through a land use permit such as a subdivision, site plan review, or conditional use permit.

B. Outside of the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts, removal of some healthy significant trees (see BIMC 16.18.130, Definitions) is allowed without a permit, except for trees required to meet any tree retention provisions of this chapter, BIMC 18.15.010 (Landscaping, screening, and tree retention, protection and replacement), Chapter 17.12 BIMC (Subdivision Design Standards) or other applicable provisions of the code.

1. On a lot that is larger than one acre, a property owner may remove up to six significant trees in any 36-month period without a permit.

2. On a lot one acre or less in size, a property owner may remove up to three significant trees in any 36-month period without a permit.

3. After the tree removal limits of this section have been reached, see BIMC 16.18.050, 16.18.060, and 16.18.070 related to obtaining a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit.

C. Removal of trees and ground cover in emergency situations involving immediate danger to life or structure or substantial fire hazards. If this activity would ordinarily require a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit, it shall be obtained as soon as possible after the emergency situation is stabilized.

D. Removal of dead or fallen trees. The city encourages property owners to leave dead trees in place for ecological benefit such as wildlife snags or nurse logs where possible. If a standing dead tree poses a hazard, creating a shorter wildlife snag is recommended.

E. Routine maintenance activities in rights-of-way and required roadside buffers, including removal of hazard trees and invasive/exotic species, trimming of overgrown hedges, thinning and planting to replace removed vegetation to control vegetation on road and utility rights-of-way (see Chapter 12.04 BIMC).

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

G. Pruning and limbing of significant trees that are required to be retained, to remove dead or hazardous branches, and to improve the tree’s form and long-term vitality, provided that such work is done by an ISA certified arborist. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.050 Activities requiring a permit.

The following activities require an applicant to obtain a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit prior to commencing:

A. A permit is required for any tree removal or vegetation maintenance in an area required to be retained or planted, pursuant to BIMC 18.15.010, through a land use permit such as a subdivision, a site plan review, or a conditional use permit. Tree retention requirements for the R-2.9, R-3.5 and R-4.3 single-family residential zones (subsection E of this section) also apply (see below).

B. For developed properties located within the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts, a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit is required for removing any tree eight inches in diameter or greater, measured four and one-half feet above grade. The applicant must demonstrate that the requested removal meets one of the following criteria:

1. The tree is dead, or determined to be hazardous, as certified by an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Tree Risk Assessment Qualified (TRAQ) arborist; or

2. The removal is necessary to allow reasonable use or enable permitted construction, and no alternative is feasible; or

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

C. For undeveloped properties within the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts, a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit is required to remove any tree except trees that are hazardous, dead, fallen, or contributing to an emergency. The tree removal permit will be reviewed for consistency with any applicable provisions of BIMC 18.15.010 that would apply to future development permits.

D. For properties located outside of the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts, a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit is required for removing more than the number of significant trees allowed without a permit, pursuant to BIMC 16.18.040.B. A permit is required:

1. On a lot that is larger than one acre, a property owner needs an approved permit to remove seven or more significant trees in any 36-month period, up to any retention requirements of subsection E of this section (if applicable).

2. On a lot one acre or less in size, a property owner needs an approved permit to remove four or more significant trees in any 36-month period, up to any retention requirements of subsection E of this section (if applicable).

E. In the R-4.3, R-3.5 and R-2.9 zoning districts, existing single-family residential development, developing single-family residences and vacant parcels shall retain at least 30 tree units per acre, or at least as many tree units as the property had on October 31, 2018, pursuant to BIMC 18.15.010.G. Replanting may be required as described in BIMC 18.15.010.G. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.060 General regulations and standards.

A. While nonnative and invasive species should be kept under control and eradicated if possible, native understory vegetation shall be maintained and land disturbing activity shall be kept to a minimum. Stump pulling and use of heavy equipment is only allowed if the activity will not affect the health of adjacent trees.

B. An applicant shall protect any trees or landscaped area that must be retained during approved tree removal or vegetation maintenance work, pursuant to the protection provisions of BIMC 18.15.010.C.4.

C. Once a portion of a property is cleared, the property owner shall ensure that invasive species do not reestablish or expand into cleared areas.

D. Any tree or vegetation removal or maintenance undertaken without a permit pursuant to this section shall be done to ensure long-term health of the trees or vegetation. A property owner shall follow the ANSI A300 (Part 1 – 2017), Tree, Shrub and Other Woody Plant Management – Standard Practices (Pruning), or 60 percent live-crown ratio, whichever standard is more appropriate for the species.

E. A forest practice permit from the State Department of Natural Resources may be required pursuant to Chapter 76.09 RCW. Failure to obtain a forest practice permit when applicable shall be grounds for denial of 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. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.070 Tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit administration and review process.

A. For activities requiring a permit, the process begins with submission of a complete permit application, usually after discussion of the proposed activity with a member of the planning staff.

B. Tree removal and vegetation maintenance activities shall comply with this chapter’s provisions for permits and related regulations. Permits for tree removal/vegetation maintenance may require the planting of replacement trees and/or other city permits such as a site assessment review (Chapter 15.19 BIMC).

C. The planning director shall grant a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit if the application meets the requirements of this chapter and is consistent with other relevant city codes, including but not limited to Chapters 15.19, 15.20, 16.12, 16.20 and 17.12 BIMC and BIMC 18.15.010. If the tree removal permit application is denied, the decision may be appealed pursuant to BIMC 16.18.110.

D. No work authorized by a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit shall commence until a permit notice has been posted by the applicant at a conspicuous location on the subject property. The notice shall describe specific plans for tree removal and land disturbing activity and shall remain posted in said location until the authorized tree removal has been completed.

E. Any tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit granted under this chapter shall expire one year from the date of issuance. Upon a showing of good cause, the permit may be extended for six months by the planning director. Approved tree removal permits shall not be amended without authorization of the planning director.

F. A tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit may be suspended or revoked by the planning director because of incorrect information supplied or any violation of the provisions of this chapter. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.080 After-the-fact tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit.

A. In response to a report that one or more trees have been removed improperly or vegetation maintenance activity did not comply with requirements of this code, the city’s code enforcement officer shall investigate. If in fact the reported activity was legitimate without a permit, no action will be taken. If the reported activity would have been allowed if a permit had been applied for, an after-the-fact tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit shall be issued. The person or persons responsible for unauthorized tree removal shall be made aware of all the conditions for approval and any applicable regulations and remedies. The fee for an after-the-fact permit shall be established by a resolution of the city council.

B. If the reported activity would not have been permitted, entirely or in some particulars, the code enforcement officer, in consultation with the planning director or the city attorney, shall follow the procedures for enforcement and penalty in BIMC 16.18.120. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.090 Mitigation and restoration.

A. For alterations to or removal of significant trees or vegetation that require a permit under this chapter, the following minimum performance standards for mitigation shall be met when replanting or other mitigation is required; provided, that if the applicant can demonstrate that greater functions or values can be obtained through the application of different standards, these standards may be modified:

1. Historic structural and functional values shall be restored, including water quality and habitat functions;

2. Historic soil types and configuration shall be replicated;

3. The disturbed area shall be replanted with vegetation that replicates the vegetation historically found on the site in species types, sizes, and densities. The historic functions and values should be replicated at the location of the alteration;

4. Any applicable tree retention or replanting requirements shall be met through restoration, if required.

B. Information demonstrating compliance with the requirements of this section shall be submitted to the director. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.100 Performance assurance.

A. The planning director may require, as a condition for the granting of a permit, that the applicant furnish a performance assurance in a form approved by the planning director, in order to obligate the applicant, after the approved tree removal has been accomplished, to complete all required replanting, erosion control, and cleanup on the property. The surety device shall be in an amount equal to the estimated cost of such services, 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 between the city and the applicant. The VCA will outline several performance items that will be required within an agreed-upon time frame. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.110 Appeals.

Appeals of the planning director’s decision on a tree removal/vegetation maintenance permit application shall be in accordance with the administrative decision procedures established in Chapter 2.16 BIMC. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.120 Violations, restoration and enforcement.

A. It is a violation of this chapter for any person to fail to comply with a requirement of this chapter. It is also a violation of this chapter for any person to:

1. Initiate or maintain, or cause to be initiated or maintained, the removal of significant tree(s) or native vegetation within the city without first obtaining permits or authorizations required by this chapter, or in a manner that violates the terms or conditions of such permits or authorizations or this chapter;

2. Misrepresent any material fact in any application, plans or other information submitted to obtain permits or authorizations under this chapter; or

3. Remove or deface any sign, notice, complaint, or order required by or posted in accordance with this chapter.

B. When a significant tree or vegetation has been removed or altered in violation of this chapter, all ongoing development work shall stop, and the significant tree or vegetation shall be restored or replaced. The city shall have the authority to issue a stop work order to cease all ongoing development work, and order restoration, rehabilitation, or replacement measures at the owner’s or other responsible party’s expense to compensate for violation of provisions of this chapter.

C. Restoration Plan Required. All development work shall remain stopped until a restoration plan is prepared and approved by the director. Such a plan shall be prepared by a qualified professional using the best available science and shall describe how the actions proposed meet the minimum requirements described in BIMC 16.18.090. The director shall, at the violator’s expense, seek expert advice in determining the adequacy of the plan. Inadequate plans shall be returned to the applicant or violator for revision and resubmittal.

D. Site Investigations. The director is authorized to make site inspections and take such actions as are necessary to enforce this chapter. The director shall present proper credentials and make a reasonable effort to contact any property owner before entering onto private property.

E. Penalties. Any development or activity carried out contrary to the provisions of this chapter shall constitute a public nuisance and may be enjoined as provided by the statutes of the state of Washington. Enforcement of this chapter and the imposition of penalties for violations of this chapter shall be as provided for in Chapter 1.26 BIMC; provided, that in addition to the civil penalties provided for in BIMC 1.26.090, an additional penalty shall be imposed on any person, party, firm, corporation, property owner, or other legal entity who fails to complete a required restoration plan, who conducts any disturbance (including cutting or removing trees or vegetation) in violation of this chapter, or who is otherwise in violation of this chapter.

For such violations, the additional penalty shall be in the amount equal to 200 percent of the cost of restoration as approved under a restoration plan pursuant to subsections B and C of this section for a minor violation. For a major violation, the additional penalty shall be in the amount equal to 200 percent of the cost of restoration as approved under a restoration plan pursuant to subsections B and C of this section, or $2,500, whichever is greater. The director shall determine whether the disturbance is a minor or major violation. Any person, party, firm, corporation, or other legal entity who knowingly and willfully refuses to complete a required restoration pursuant to subsections C and D of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by not more than 30 days in jail and/or not more than a $1,000 fine. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)

16.18.130 Definitions.

“Applicant” means a person, corporation, or organization that files an application for a land use or development permit with the city: either the owner of the land in question, or the authorized agent of such a person.

“Aquifer recharge protection area (ARPA)” means a portion of a development site comprised of native or equivalent vegetation in which existing vegetation, topography and supporting soils are free of development, uses or activities detrimental to the aquifer recharge of the total site area.

“Arborist” means an individual engaged in the profession of arboriculture who, through experience, education, and related training, possesses the competence to provide for or supervise the management of trees and other woody plants. Must be concurrently an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist to perform any role required of a Certified Arborist.

“Arborist, ISA Certified” means an arborist holding a current International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist credential.

“Arborist, Tree Risk Assessment Qualified (TRAQ)” means an arborist who has successfully completed the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) TRAQ training course and assessment and holds a valid ISA TRAQ credential.

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

“Invasive/exotic species” means opportunistic plant species (either native or non-native) that colonize disturbed ecosystems and may come to dominate the plant community in ways that are seen by us as reducing the values provided by the previous plant community.

“Land disturbing activity” means any activity that results in a change in the existing soil cover (both vegetative and nonvegetative) and/or the existing soil topography. Land disturbing activities include, but are not limited to, clearing, grading, filling and excavation. Compaction that is associated with stabilization of structures and road construction shall also be considered a land disturbing activity. Vegetation maintenance practices are not considered land disturbing activity. Stormwater facility maintenance is not considered land disturbing activity if conducted according to established standards and procedures.

“Low impact development (LID)” means a stormwater and land use management strategy that strives to mimic predisturbance hydrologic processes of infiltration, filtration, storage, evaporation and transpiration by emphasizing conservation, use of on-site natural features, site planning, and distributed stormwater management practices that are integrated into a project design.

“Low impact development best management practices (LID BMPs)” means distributed stormwater management practices, integrated into a project design, that emphasize predisturbance hydrologic processes of infiltration, filtration, storage, evaporation and transpiration. LID BMPs include, but are not limited to: bioretention, rain gardens, permeable pavements, roof downspout controls, dispersion, improvements to soil quality and depth, minimal excavation foundations, vegetated roofs, and water reuse.

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

“Vegetation” means plant matter, including trees, shrubs and ground cover. (Ord. 2018-19 § 1 (Exh. A), 2018)