Chapter 16.48

16.48.000    Chapter Contents


16.48.010    Short title.

16.48.020    Purposes.

16.48.030    Definitions.

16.48.040    Permit or approval required.

16.48.045    Tree removal.

16.48.050    Exemptions.

16.48.060    Permit application -- Requirements –Processing -- Conditions of issuance.

16.48.070    Performance bond may be required.

16.48.090    Appeal procedure.

16.48.115    Use of fees and penalties.

16.48.120    Violation -- Penalty.

(Ord. 6523 §13, 2008, repealed Section 16.48.080 and 16.48.100; Ord. 6310 §48, 2004).

16.48.010 Short title

The following sections are added to the Olympia Municipal Code and shall be known and may be cited as the "clearing ordinance" of the city.

(Ord. 6523 §13, 2008; Ord. 5248 §1, 1991; Ord. 4231 §1, 1980).

16.48.020 Purposes

These regulations are adopted for the following purposes:

A.    To promote the public health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of Olympia without preventing the reasonable development of land;

B.    To encourage site development on public and private property, including cleaning, excavation, and filling in such a manner as to minimize hazards to life, health, and property;

C.    To preserve and enhance the city’s physical and aesthetic character by preventing untimely and indiscriminate removal or destruction of trees and ground cover;

D.    To minimize surface water runoff and diversion which may contribute to flooding;

E.    To reduce siltation in the city’s streams, lakes, storm sewer systems, and public roadside improvements;

F.    To reduce the risk of slides and the creation of unstable building sites;

G.    To promote building and site planning practices that are consistent with the city’s natural topography, soils, and vegetative features while at the same time recognizing that certain factors such as disease, danger of fallings, 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 insure prompt development, restoration and replanting and effective erosion control of property after land clearing and grading;

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

J.    To implement and further the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Westside Task Force resolution.

(Ord. 4231 §2, 1980).

16.48.030 Definitions

For the purpose of this chapter:

A.    "City" means the city of Olympia, Washington.

B.    "Clearing" means any activity which removes the vegetative ground cover and/or trees including, but not limited to, root mat removal and/or topsoil removal.

C.    "Contiguous land" means parcels adjoining and touching other land and having the same owner regardless of whether or not portions of the parcels have separate tax lot numbers, or were purchased at different times, lie in different sections, are different government lots or are separated from each other by private road or private rights-of-way.

D.    "Excavation" means any digging, scooping or other methods of removing earth materials.

E.    "Filling" means any depositing or stockpiling of earth materials.

F.    "Ground cover" means trees less than 6" in diameter measured at 4-1/2’ above the ground level and other vegetation.

G.    "Parcel" means real property within the boundaries of an ad valorem tax lot description as found in the Thurston County ad valorem tax records.

H.    “Tree” means any self-supporting perennial woody plant characterized by one main stem or trunk, of at least one (1) inch d.b.h., maturing at a height of seven (7) feet above ground level with a definite crown.

(Ord. 7288 §1, 2021; Ord. 6523 §13, 2008; Ord. 5248 §2, 1991; Ord. 4830 §1, 1987; Ord. 4231 §3, 1980).

16.48.040 Permit or approval required

No trees, as defined in OMC Section 16.48.030, and associated soil or native vegetation within the critical root zone of the tree(s), may be removed without first obtaining approval of a tree protection and replacement plan and a tree removal permit pursuant to this chapter. No person, corporation, or other legal entity shall engage in land clearing in the City without having complied with one of the following:

A.    Obtaining approval of a Tree, Soil and Vegetation Plan and obtaining a tree removal permit as provided for in this chapter;

B.    Receiving a grading permit from the Building Official; or

C.    Having obtained approval of the proposed work under the processes described in subsection A of OMC Section 16.48.050, after the adoption date of the ordinance codified in this chapter.

(Ord. 7288 §2, 2021; Ord. 7249 §1, 2020; Ord. 6523 §13, 2008; Ord. 5248 §3, 1991; Ord. 4231 §4, 1980).

16.48.045 Tree removal

No trees, as defined by Section 16.48.030, may be removed without first obtaining approval of a soil and vegetation plan and a tree removal permit pursuant to this chapter. Development plans may be required to be modified or changed when necessary to preserve individual trees or groups of trees.

(Ord. 7249 §2, 2020; Ord. 5248 §4, 1991; Ord. 5026 §1, 1989; Ord. 4830 §2, 1987).

16.48.050 Exemptions

The following shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter:

A.    Projects requiring approval of the Director under the zoning ordinance, and/or by the Hearing Examiner and City Council, provided that grading on such projects shall take place only after approval and shall be in accordance with such approval, and the criteria and information requirements of this chapter;

B.    Clearing in emergency situations involving immediate danger to life or property or substantial fire hazards;

C.    Clearing on a parcel or contiguous parcels in one ownership less than 7,000 square feet in size for the purpose of exploration and investigation, construction, landscaping and/or associated improvements for a single-family or duplex residence. Such exemption shall not be applicable when the above-mentioned grading activity would directly involve or be within 300 feet of critical areas as outlined in OMC 18.32. Such areas include, but are not limited to; shoreline areas, wetlands, streams, and landslide hazard areas. Additionally, such exemption shall not be applicable when the work is within 1,000 feet of important habitats and species as outlined in the Critical Area Regulations;

D.    Clearing within a maximum of 10' (when required for construction and associated landscaping) of the perimeter of the building line, and any area to be graded for driveway and septic purposes, of a single single-family or duplex dwelling constructed as indicated on the plot plan submitted to the building official;

E.    The removal of dead trees or of diseased or damaged trees which constitute a hazard to life or property;

F.    Clearing done under authority of a approval issued pursuant to RCW Chapter 76.09 when, in the opinion of the city building inspector, such work involves commercial Christmas tree harvesting pursuant to a continuing harvesting and reforestation program and the land shall not be converted to a use other than Christmas tree production;

G.    Clearing practices associated with normal agricultural crop operations, excluding timber cutting not otherwise exempted;

H.    Stockpiling and handling of earth material associated with commercial quarry operations licensed under the authority of the State Department of Natural Resources and the State Open Mining Act of 1970.

(Ord. 7027 §5, 2016; Ord. 6967 §6, 2015; Ord. 6523 §13, 2008; Ord. 5258 §5, 1991; Ord. 4830 §3, 1987; Ord. 4231 §5, 1980).

16.48.060 Permit application –Requirements –Processing – Conditions of issuance

A.    An application for a clearing permit shall be submitted on a form provided by the City. Accompanying such form shall be a general plot plan which shall include the following information:

1.    a.    General vicinity map,

b.    Property boundaries indicating extent and location of proposed clearing activities, and major physical features of the property (i.e., streams, ravines, etc.),

c.    Location and dimensions of buffer areas to be maintained or established, and location and description of proposed erosion-control devices or structures,

d.    Identification and location, by a professional forester, of all individual trees and associated soil and vegetation within the critical root zone of the trees, that are to be removed, retained and protected (see Chapter 9 – Mitigation, Tree, Soil and Vegetation Manual, for Soil and Vegetation site plan requirements);

2.    As determined at the discretion of the Building Official, other information as deemed appropriate to this chapter may be required in instances related to geological hazard, shoreline protection, tree, vegetation and soils protection and replacement or project scope;

3.    An application fee as adopted in Title 4 of this code will be assessed at time of permit issuance.

B.    The building official upon receipt of an application shall confer with the city environmental review officer and other city personnel as may be appropriate, and make a decision within 20 working days from the date of submission of a completed application, unless an extension is authorized by the applicant.

C.    Any permit granted under this chapter shall expire one year from the date of issuance. Upon a showing of good cause, a permit may be extended by the building official for one 6 month period.

Approved plans shall not be amended without authorization of the building official. The permit may be suspended or revoked by the building official because of incorrect information supplied or any violation of the provisions of this chapter.

D.    An application penalty fee triple that assessed by subsection (A)(3) of this section shall be assessed for any grading or clearing conducted prior to issuance of a permit required by this chapter. This application penalty fee shall be in addition to any penalty assessed under Section 16.48.120.

E.    The building official, or designee, may and is authorized to impose such permit conditions as deemed necessary and appropriate to require site work to maintain existing topography by limiting mass site grading. Any grading or clearing, or both, are to be consistent with policies of limiting hydrologic changes to a site and the vicinity. Site disturbances that change the ground elevation within 100' of neighboring structures, protected critical areas or their buffers, soil and vegetation protection areas, and bodies of water should be minimized to the greatest extent possible.

(Ord. 7288 §3, 2021; Ord. 7027 §6, 2016; Ord. 6523 §13, 2008; Ord. 5248 §6, 1991; Ord. 5093 §1, 1990; Ord. 4830 §4, 1987; Ord. 4231 §6, 1980).

16.48.070 Performance bond may be required

The building official may require bonds in such form and amounts as may be deemed necessary to assure that the work shall be completed in accordance with the permit. Bonds, if required, shall be furnished by the property owner, or other person or agent in control of the property.

In lieu of a surety bond, the applicant may file a cash bond or instrument of credit with the building official in an amount equal to that which would be required in the surety bond. The amount of such bond shall not exceed the estimated cost of the total restoration work planned.

(Ord. 4231 §8, 1980).

16.48.090 Appeal procedure

Any person or persons aggrieved by any action of the building official may, within fourteen (14) calendar days of such action, file a notice of appeal with the Hearing Examiner setting forth the reasons for such an appeal. The Hearing Examiner shall hear and determine the matter and may affirm, modify or disaffirm the administrative decision within ninety (90) calendar days of the filing of notice of appeal.

(Ord. 5570 §11, 1995; Ord. 4830 §5, 1987; Ord. 4231 §9, 1980).

16.48.115 Use of fees and penalties

Revenues raised from penalties, civil fees or fines shall be placed into the city tree account created pursuant to Section 16.60.045.

(Ord. 5382 §1, 1993; Ord. 5248 9, 1991: Ord. 4830 §8, 1987).

16.48.120 Violation –Penalty

A.    Any person, firm, or corporation who knowingly violates or fails to comply with any term or provision of this chapter shall be deemed to have committed a misdemeanor, and if found guilty, shall be subject to a fine not to exceed One Thousand Dollars ($1,000), and/or to imprisonment not to exceed ninety (90) days or to both such fine and imprisonment. Each day shall be a separate offense. In the event of a continuing violation or failure to comply, the second and subsequent days shall constitute a gross misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) and/or imprisonment not to exceed three hundred and sixty-five (365) days or both such time and imprisonment. Continuing violation shall mean the same type of violation which is committed within a year of the initial violation.

B.    As an additional concurrent penalty, it shall be a civil infraction for a person, firm, or corporation to violate or fail to comply with any term or provision of this chapter. Each day shall be a separate infraction. A person, firm, or corporation found to have committed a civil infraction shall be assessed a monetary penalty as follows:

1.    First offense: Class 3 ($50), not including statutory assessments.

2.    Second offense arising out of the same facts as the first offense: Class 2 ($125), not including statutory assessments.

3.    Third offense arising out of the same facts as the first offense: Class 1 ($250), not including statutory assessments.

See also OMC Chapter 4.44, Uniform Code Enforcement.

C.    In addition to the penalties set forth in subsections A and B of this section, any violation of the provisions of this chapter is declared to be a public nuisance and may be abated through proceedings for injunctive or similar relief in Superior Court or other court of competent jurisdiction.

D.    Upon determination that a violation of the provisions of this chapter has occurred, the building official shall withhold issuance of the building permits for the affected property until corrective action is taken by the responsible party. However, if mitigating circumstances exist and reasonable commitments for corrective action are made, the building official may issue building permits. Such corrective action may include:

1.    Restoration of surface vegetation with plant material similar in character and extent as existed prior to the unauthorized clearing;

2.    Implementation of drainage and erosion control measures;

3.    Replanting of trees to replace those lost through unauthorized clearing pursuant to Chapter 16.60 of this title.

(Ord. 6081 §58, 2001; Ord. 5248 §10, 1991; Ord. 4830 §7, 1987; Ord. 4231 §10, 1980).