This tall, historic Sequoia tree located on a lot on SW 160th Street may have been over 100 years old, but that didn’t prevent it from being cut down on April 28, 2014.

By Jack Mayne

Councilmembers spent some time Monday night (June 16, 2014) trying to figure out how to update a city ordinance governing how trees are protected.

In one of the shortest Council meetings in the recent past, the city’s tree ordinance gained some discussion about whether to keep it and, if so, whether or how to broaden its reach.

Most cities in the area have laws governing when, how and why a tree on private property is removed. In Burien, if you cut down a tree in most cases you need to replace it with another or, in some cases, several others.

The city law says “significant trees are defined as existing healthy trees which when measures four feet above the ground have a minimum diameter of eight inches for evergreen trees and 12 inches for deciduous trees” and that “all significant trees on an undeveloped lot must be retained.”

But Councilmember Jerry Robison wondered whether the city needed a tree ordinance, and how it would affect the north Burien property since he planted them when they were saplings, but now they have grown to huge size that under the city’s tree ordinance requires “significant trees removed must be replaced with other transplanted significant trees” as big or potentially bigger.

During the discussion there was even a suggestion that a new property owner who wanted to clear the trees on a lot would simply do so before applying for a building permit from the city. Chip Davis, the city’s community development director said with a smile that that had been done in the past. But, then City Manager Kamuron Gurol sternly warned developers and property owners not to consider that and the city would be watching for tree removal violators.

Davis said the Council could consider modifying the ordinance’s definition of significant trees, or it could modify the percentage of a property that had to have trees on it. Also, he said the Council could consider expanding offers to keep trees or modify “tree replacement ratios.” The Council could even “extend significant tree protection for developed properties,” as now the tree law does not extend to already developed property.

Several Council members said they wanted Davis and the city staff to find out what other cities do about protecting trees on private land, and then would reconsider the matter later on.

Transportation Planning Tool
The Council also voted to approve a six-year “Transportation Improvement Program” that is a “planning tool” to coordinate projects with local, state and federal agencies.

In other action, the Burien Council approved a proclamation recognizing “Flight Pattern Kids” and declaring this week as Toxics Awareness Week.

The Council is to hold a special meeting next Monday (June 23) to discuss six-year financial forecast and begin discussions on the next two-year city budget.

On July 7, the Council is to begin review of the CARES animal control contract.

Jack Mayne

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.