Why it’s so hard to cut a tree down in Everett

Did you know it’s against city law to cut down or even prune a tree on steep slopes, near streams or in wetlands — even if that tree is on your property?

In a few cases every year, people get caught and are fined up to $10,000. In one case, homeowners who went onto someone else’s property to cut down trees and improve their views, had to pay tens of thousands of dollars in restoration fees after a landslide.

The city is required by the state to have laws that protect environmentally-sensitive areas. Homeowners who purchase properties for the views are frustrated when those views — and re-sale values — quickly disappear behind a blockade of alders and maples.

The city is trying to find a happy medium. But they’re finding it’s not easy. Tuesday night, the Everett Planning Commission reviewed an early draft of a proposal that would allow property owners to prune or remove trees. I’ve attached it.

Here’s a sample of what it says: If you want to prune more than two trees, you would need to get an arborist report. If you want to remove a tree, you would need to hire an arborist, a geotechnical engineer and a biologist. There are process fees and staff costs for field inspections by the city and hefty fines if property owners ignore the law.

All those experts are necessary because each piece of property is different. In order to adhere to state mandates, the city can’t simply create a one-size-fits all rule book for property owners.

Planning director Allan Giffen hastened to point out this draft is just that. At the meeting he said: “We’ve got a lot of work to do on this one. We want a system that is more manageable.”

Your ideas?

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