Tree-totaler settles in Edmonds

EDMONDS – The tree debate is finally over.

The Edmonds City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to accept corrective measures proposed by a developer in response to the company’s illegal clearcutting of a forested slope in March.

The developer, Triad, is building a $65 million condominium project on 25 acresof the former Unocal tank farm at Point Edwards on the south Edmonds waterfront.

The alders and maples on a steep, unbuildable slope on the property, which faces adjacent Marina Beach Park, were clearcut in violation of the Triad’s building permit agreement with the city. Triad has said that it made a mistake in interpreting the agreement, which allowed cutting of the trees at a later date under restricted conditions.

Most City Council members and some of the audience members who spoke were supportive of accepting the developer’s proposal, which includes extensive replanting, increased fines and ongoing monitoring of the health of the new trees and stability of the slope.

The company also offered to voluntarily pay fines of $1,000 a day retroactive to March rather than the previous $100 a day. That would bring the total fines to approximately $78,000, officials said.

“They’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do. They’ve said they are sorry, they made a mistake,” resident Don Kreiman said.

“Triad has a natural, inherent incentive to protect that slope,” council member Richard Marin said.

Others expressed concerns about details of the agreement, especially over whether the three-year monitoring period would be long enough. Monitoring will be done by arborists, landscape architects and geotechnicians mutually agreed upon by the developer and the city.

“I think our proposal’s fair. We remain apologetic, we remain humbled by it,” Triad’s president, Fred Grimm, told the council. “At the same time, we’re anxious to move on and finish this matter of business.”

In April, Triad – doing business on the project as Point Edwards LLC – proposed a list of amends, including planting more than 100 native conifer trees on the site and donating $100,000 to the Edmonds’ Beach Ranger and flower programs.

The replanting plan was approved by an arborist and accepted by city officials.

But the state required the city to place a moratorium on construction of two planned buildings involved in the project because the clearcut was a violation of the state Forest Practices Act. The moratorium could extend for as long as six years, or until conditions set by the city are met.

In a public hearing on the moratorium June 1, the council heeded calls from residents to require additional outside review of the project.

As a result, Point Edwards LLC offered to control water runoff on the slope, have the slope closely monitored in case of heavy rain or flooding, and to address wildlife habitat issues on the property. The wildlife component, which includes restoring eagle perches with snags, will be addressed through the moratorium process, officials said.

Another component of the agreement is that the developer will put up a bond to cover any legal challenges to the agreement the city may face.

The council’s acceptance of the agreement precluded a meeting with the city’s hearing examiner scheduled for July 15, at which the developer’s building permit could have been revoked.

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