Tree cutting ordinance heads to council

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

To cut the tree down or not to cut the tree down - that's a good question in Bonney Lake.

It is a question the City Council is about to begin wrestling with in a much more serious way over the next few weeks.

Grant Sulham from the Planning Commission presented recommendations on a tree retention ordinance at the Sept. 27 City Council meeting.

"Historically Bonney Lake had a strong tree retention ordinance," Sulham said. "That changed and it became easier to cut trees. We are trying to bring it back to the middle."

After the commission and staff distributed a questionnaire to the residents and a public hearing was held on Sept. 7, a draft ordinance was written, which was presented to the council.

The results of the questionnaire were based on a small sample, but indicated residents do not want any tree regulations on their property.

The staff report on the ordnance pointed out that, "many citizens have bitterly complained about tree cutting on development sites."

The solution of the commission and staff was an ordinance that exempts existing single-family residence and focuses on new developments.

"One of the things this (ordinance) does is try to restore the existing forest canopy around the city," Councilman Mark Hamilton said. "If the property is not dividable or not being developed, people can pretty much do what they want. This is really for land clearing."

The commission and council hopes to get an ordinance in place that will help avoid some of the problems the city encountered over the last year with tree removal.

The first issue arose when Jessica Larios cut down trees at 7720 190th Ave. E in October 2004. Although she had a clearing permit issued by the city, neighbors complained to the city and council the tree removal caused flooding on their property.

In March, Michelle Gunn removed 13 trees from her property. Gunn received a permit after providing the documentation the trees were diseased and a danger to renters living on her property.

Neighbors complained to the city and a stop-work order was issued, but the trees were nearly all down.

Gunn cleared the trees on her property and no action was taken by the city.

"We're hoping to bring some clarification to the code," Hamilton said. "The existing code is vague and has gotten the city in trouble."

Hamilton has been an active leader on the council encouraging a tree retention and education program.

The city now has an on-call arborist, Dennis Tompkins, whose services were used in the writing the draft ordinance.

"The next step is an outreach program (administrative services coordinator) Don Morrison and I have started," Hamilton said. "We want to educated people to voluntarily retain trees."

The ordinance was scheduled to be discussed at the Tuesday City Council workshop.

Dennis Box can be reached at

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