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Johnson, Herbold & O’Brien Lay Out Path Forward on Tree Protection Legislation

Commit to protecting exceptional trees, maintaining Seattle’s reputation as a ‘truly Emerald City’

Seattle, WA – Members of the Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee issued the following statement specific to the City’s forthcoming tree ordinance earlier today:

“The benefits of tree canopies are numerous: a cleaner, more resilient environment, and a more beautiful and equitable city are among them. Management of trees is part of the complex challenge necessary to preserve these important benefits. In response, the Council’s PLUZ committee has discussed a framework which aims to create stronger stewardship of the trees we have, allow our canopy to keep pace with growth and greater density, and plant more trees in neighborhoods that lack them.

“We share a common goal with many of our constituents to protect our environment and grow our tree canopy. Together with the community we have been seeking stronger protections for our city’s trees in order to meet our goal of at least 30% tree canopy coverage in Seattle. This approach inspired us to propose a new requirement for permits to remove significant trees, while also requiring those who remove trees to replace them.

“From the start we’ve been committed to crafting this proposal in an open manner. We’ve hosted three public meetings on the proposal and went to great lengths to include the public at the ‘table’ by releasing working drafts for community input. In our collective experience with Council policy-making, it is unusual for draft legislation to be released to the public and discussed in committee before a bill is officially introduced. We’ve taken this approach because of our shared desire to incorporate input we receive before introducing legislation. We have already included much of what we’ve heard, including lowering the threshold for tree replacement to 6” in diameter, requiring certification for tree service professionals and extending these protections to all zones throughout the City.

“We’ve also heard that the community is interested in taking more time to consider this draft legislation, and that adding new replacement requirements was not enough protection for exceptional trees. In response to that critical input, last week Chair Johnson made a commitment to take more time with this legislation. All three committee members also strongly agree with advocates that we must maintain and strengthen the current protections for exceptional trees.

“In addition to maintaining and strengthening protections for exceptional trees, the committee will continue to consider important issues including the method we use to measure trees, protections for tree groves, funding to properly enforce the ordinance, and more.  We all believe that these can be resolved with the community through the normal legislative process. Some of these issues will be discussed at the September 19th, 2018 meeting of the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee meeting. We plan to continue consideration in December after our budget process wraps up.

“It’s our hope that this approach will serve to incentivize preservation of trees as our city grows, and will maintain Seattle’s reputation as a truly Emerald City.”

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