Chapter 15.10


15.10.010    Purpose.

15.10.012    Roles and responsibilities – Homeowners’ associations.

15.10.015    Definitions.

15.10.017    Applicability.

15.10.020    Permit required.

15.10.030    Exemptions.

15.10.040    Prohibited tree cutting and clearing of natural vegetation.

15.10.045    Standards.

15.10.050    Permit application.

15.10.060    Application review.

15.10.065    Emergency tree removal.

15.10.070    Sureties.

15.10.075    Penalties.

15.10.080    Expiration and extension of permit.

15.10.090    Permit fees.

15.10.100    Appeals.

Legislative history: Ord. 94-320.

15.10.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter includes but is not limited to promoting the health, safety and welfare by regulating land clearing and tree cutting in order to preserve and protect natural vegetation; to promote building and site planning practices that protect wetlands, watercourses and wildlife habitat; to minimize erosion and sedimentation; to minimize the need for and maintenance of drainage facilities; to minimize adverse effects on ground and surface waters; to enhance the appearance and character of the city; and to implement the comprehensive plan. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.012 Roles and responsibilities – Homeowners’ associations.

A. This chapter is not intended to replace or alter any restrictions on tree cutting that may be a condition of private covenants, the role and responsibilities of private homeowners’ associations in enforcing private restrictions, or the review and approval process of said associations.

B. The city will endeavor to inform the appropriate homeowners’ association of any permit issued pursuant to the regulations contained in this chapter. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.015 Definitions.

A. “Developed lot” means a lot, parcel or tract of land upon which a structure(s) is located, which cannot be more intensively developed or further subdivided in accordance with the city’s zoning and subdivision regulations.

B. “Drip line” means a tree’s drip line is a line on the ground delineating the outermost extent of the tree’s foliage in all directions.

C. “Ground cover” means small plants and shrubs, such as salal, ferns, mosses, grasses and trees of less than four inches diameter.

D. “Lots, parcels and tracts” means any share, portion, piece or division of real property, whether developed, partially developed or undeveloped.

E. “Partially developed lot” means a lot, parcel or tract of land on which a structure(s) is located and which has sufficient area to accommodate increased development or may be further subdivided in accordance with the city’s zoning and subdivision regulations.

F. “Significant tree” means a tree that is a minimum of six inches at the height of four and one-half feet, diameter at breast height. The height shall be measured above the ground line on the upslope side of the tree.

G. “Undeveloped lot” means a lot, parcel or tract of land upon which no structure exists and which may be further developed or subdivided in accordance with the city’s zoning regulations. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.017 Applicability.

The provisions of this chapter shall apply to the removal, cutting or clearing of trees and natural vegetation from all lots, parcels, and tracts within the corporate limits of the city of Mill Creek. No person, corporation, or other entity shall engage in tree cutting or land clearing without fully complying with the provisions of this chapter. Every action authorized or permitted under this chapter shall require a land clearing permit, exemption, or other authorized land development permit. This chapter, as applicable, shall be referenced in the conditions of approval for land development. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.020 Permit required.

A. Every person, corporation or entity proposing to engage in activities regulated by this chapter shall first apply for a permit, exemption or other authorization or land development permit.

B. A permit is required for cutting trees or clearing natural vegetation when such activity includes any one or more of the following:

1. Removal or cutting of trees larger than six inches in diameter measured at the height of four and one-half feet; or

2. Clearing or cutting operations on slopes of greater than 25 percent gradient and geologically unstable slopes less than 25 percent; or

3. Clearing operations encompassing an area greater than 500 square feet unless exempted under MCMC 15.10.030. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.030 Exemptions.

An exemption under this chapter may be granted for clearing and cutting under one or more of the following conditions:

A. When submitting an application for a building permit consistent with MCMC 15.10.050(B), or when tree cutting and clearing of natural vegetation is being conducted in conjunction with work authorized under a valid grading permit or active preliminary plat or binding site plan approval; provided, that the required information relating to tree preservation and retention has been reviewed and approved in writing by the director of community development.

B. For routine maintenance of public and private recreational facilities, except for trees and natural vegetation designated for retention as a condition of development or building permit approval.

C. On undeveloped or partially developed lots one-half acre in size or less, when removing three or fewer nonsignificant trees within any 12-month period.

D. On undeveloped or partially developed lots larger than one-half acre in size, when removing six or fewer nonsignificant trees within any 12-month period.

E. For the removal of obviously dead or diseased trees or ground cover.

F. When removing trees for construction of public roads or installation of public and private utilities.

G. Removal of dead and diseased trees from developed residential properties, including but not limited to single-family detached, single-family attached, condominium and multi-family, except for significant trees and trees specifically designated for retention as a condition of development or building permit approval. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.040 Prohibited tree cutting and clearing of natural vegetation.

Tree cutting and clearing of natural vegetation is prohibited in each of the following circumstances; provided, that during the site development or building permit approval process a permit may be obtained for subsections A, C, D and E of this section:

A. Within any roadway buffer/cutting preserve or designated property buffer without the prior written approval of the director of community development.

B. On slopes of 25 percent or steeper gradient or on unstable slopes less than 25 percent.

C. Within 100 feet of the top of the bank of any watercourse with a year-round flow, unless a setback reduction has been approved pursuant to Chapter 18.06 MCMC.

D. When any tree is identified on an approved tree preservation plan.

E. Within a regulated critical area or required critical area buffer in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 18.06 MCMC. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.045 Standards.

All trees and natural vegetation to be retained shall be protected from damage, filling, compaction, and undercutting during land development and building construction and such protection shall at a minimum comply with the following:

A. Barrier fencing shall be erected and maintained continually at a line two feet outside the drip line of individual trees or stands of trees and natural vegetation during all development and construction. Inspection by department of community development staff of barrier fencing and lot topography shall be made during the plan review process, prior to issuance of building or grading permits.

B. Retaining walls or rockeries to preserve terrain elevation may be required where the grade level adjoining the trees or natural vegetation to be preserved is to be raised or lowered. Retaining walls and rockeries shall be located at or outside the drip line of the subject trees.

C. Excavated soils shall not be placed in preservation areas or inside the drip line of trees to be preserved. Tracked machinery shall not be operated inside the drip line of trees to be preserved.

D. Desirable ground cover (including but not limited to those listed in Table 15-1) located in areas of natural vegetation and adjacent to trees to be preserved shall be incorporated into the finished landscape plan to the greatest extent feasible.

Table 15-1

Examples of Desirable Ground Cover

Common Name

Scientific Name

Oregon grape

Berberis nervosa

Sword fern

Polystichum munitum


Gaultheria shallon


Acer circinatum


Rubis spectabilis

Red huckleberry

Vaccinium parvifolium

E. Clearing and removal of nuisance vegetation such as blackberry, nettles, thistle, tree seedlings/saplings, noxious weeds and similar vegetation shall be conducted in such a manner that tracked machinery is not operated within the areas to be preserved or inside the drip line of trees to be preserved, and desirable ground covers are not destroyed in the process.

F. Failure to maintain the protective measures described above, or violation of conditions of permit approval, shall result in the issuance of stop work orders and penalties and fines in accordance with MCMC 15.10.075. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.050 Permit application.

A. An application for a tree cutting and clearing permit on undeveloped or partially developed lots, tracts or parcels, not associated with a building permit, shall contain the following:

1. The name, address and telephone number of the owner of the property.

2. The name, address and telephone number of the person who will perform the work.

3. The address, plat name, and lot number if applicable.

4. A site plan showing all of the following: existing or proposed streets, property buffers and cutting preserves, structures, slopes over 25 percent in gradient, wetlands subject to the provisions of Chapter 18.06 MCMC, watercourses, and the location of all significant trees. All trees shall be identified by a number or letter and/or stands of trees, including identifying by number and type the trees to be cut or area of land to be cleared.

5. A description of the size and type of vegetation to be removed and the equipment to be used in removal.

6. A plan for erosion control during and after the cutting or clearing including an estimate of the cost thereof.

7. A plan for the removal or disposition of the harvested trees, slash and debris.

8. A plan for the preservation of trees and natural vegetation meeting the standards established in this chapter.

9. A plan for the restoration of the site after cutting, clearing, and debris removal are completed, including an estimate of the cost of restoration.

10. An environmental checklist for those projects subject to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

B. An application for a tree cutting and clearing permit on individual lots or in association with building construction on individual lots shall be reviewed prior to issuance of a building permit and shall contain the following:

1. The name, address and telephone number of the owner of the property.

2. The name, address and telephone number of the person who will perform the work.

3. Two plot plans, comprising two separate drawings, and containing:

a. The plat name, lot number, address, lot line dimensions, footprint of structure, proposed setbacks from property lines, driveways, and location of all significant trees.

b. A schedule of trees to be retained and trees to be removed consistent with the conditions of plat or development approval. Trees on adjacent lots within 10 feet of the subject lot shall also be shown.

c. Present and proposed topography, retaining walls, rockeries, and any additional factors affecting finish grades and house placement.

d. All easements, property buffers, and cutting preserve areas.

C. The director of community development may waive any of the submittal requirements of this section if he determines that the purposes of this chapter can otherwise be met. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.060 Application review.

The director of community development or his designee shall review and have authority to approve all applications for cutting and clearing permits which meet the requirements of this chapter and may require as a condition of approval specific conditions reasonably necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.065 Emergency tree removal.

In an emergency situation the removal of a tree(s) may occur without prior written approval from the director of community development. If feasible, notification to the city is required prior to emergency removal of trees, or immediately after an emergency situation is abated if it occurred after hours, or on holidays or weekends. The city shall be notified before disposal of emergency removals or grubbing of the stump (if emergency must be abated before city approval). Photos of the emergency situation should be taken prior to the emergency removal. If it is determined by the director that no emergency existed, the removal will be considered a violation and appropriate enforcement action shall be taken. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.070 Sureties.

The director of community development or his designee may require a surety to be posted to secure the applicant’s obligation to comply with the conditions of the permit approval and to complete the required and necessary restoration of the property. The surety shall be equal to not less than 125 percent of the estimated cost of restoration or total project cost as determined by the director. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.075 Penalties.

A. Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter or fail to comply therewith, or who shall violate or fail to comply with any order made thereunder, or who shall remove trees or clear natural vegetation in violation of any statement of specifications or plans submitted and approved thereunder, or any certificate or permit issued thereunder, shall be subject to the general penalties contained in Chapter 1.16 MCMC.

B. As an alternative or in addition to the general penalty specified in subsection A of this section, a penalty in the amount of $1,000 may be assessed for each tree designated for retention that is damaged, destroyed, and/or removed. In addition, each such tree shall be replaced with three coniferous trees each having a minimum height of 10 feet at the time of planting. In the event that other specified conditions of development approval conflict with the penalties in this subsection, the more stringent shall apply. (Ord. 2013-763 § 1; Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.080 Expiration and extension of permit.

A permit issued for tree cutting or clearing of natural vegetation shall expire six months from the date of issuance. The director may grant only one permit extension for up to six months before a new application must be submitted. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.090 Permit fees.

A permit fee is required, payable upon application, as specified in Chapter 3.42 MCMC. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)

15.10.100 Appeals.

Appeals from permit decisions, administrative determinations, or penalties imposed pursuant to MCMC 15.10.075(B) shall be governed by the procedures set forth in Chapter 14.11 MCMC. (Ord. 2005-609 § 2)