Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tacoma's Trees

Last Wednesday, the Tacoma Planning Commission took testimony on the new landscaping and urban forestry code.   Ramie Pierce, Urban Forester for the City, introduced the code with a general overview of the 150 page package.


When the testimony began it was clear not everyone was excited about the new regulations.  The focus of the testimony was the requirement for every property to plant trees meeting a specific amount of tree canopy on their property.  Every commenter spoke in opposition to some of the regulations.  The comments below are from the public hearing and cover the array of topics raised.


- Unrealistic canopy coverage requirements in dense areas, like 15-25 percent coverage on downtown parcels.
- Industrial uses could be precluded with substantial tree requirements.
- Property owners are required to provide 30 percent tree canopy for all adjacent public streets rather than the City being responsible.
- Cannot average landscaping and trees across parcels - meaning off-site habitat/vegetation mitigation is not allowed.
- Lack of clarity on when the code and canopy requirements are triggered.  Exterior changes to a building (including single family homes), would trigger canopy requirements.
- Fees-in-lieu of planting canopy are 4 times larger than the actual cost of a tree and its maintenance.
- No protection of views.
- Encourages use of non-native tree species.

- Self-managed agencies, including those with separately elected boards and foresters, are subject to City oversight rather than being recognized as independent municipalities.

The Chamber has not taken a position on the proposed regulations, but the above comments from the public hearing, certainly raise concerns.  If you have concerns you'd like to share with the City, the current comment period is open through May 11th at elliott.barnett@cityoftacoma.org .  For more information, the City's website has all the documents at http://www.cityoftacoma.org/Page.aspx?hid=17360 .

***
Updated 5/10/12 to clarify that the comments are from the testimony at the public hearing.  Thanks to Exit 133 for pointer (http://www.exit133.com/6854/tacoma-s-trees).  The hearing can be heard here: http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/planning/Planning%20Commission/PC%20Audios%202012/PC%20Audio%205-2-12.mp3

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