Rules on tree removal not clearcut on BI

Complaints made by a neighborhood group could lead to a new law that would make sure even small lots can’t be clearcut of trees.

Friends of Battle Point Neighborhood recently sent a list of complaints to the Bainbridge Island City Council about a clearcut of two building sites in the 11600 block of Olympic View Terrace, near the Fairy Dell Trail. The group wanted to know how that could be allowed, considering the island’s strict regulations on cutting trees.

Planning director Heather Wright said it was allowed because of the small building lots, which weren’t part of the code.

Responding to the complaints, the council talked with Wright at a recent council meeting.

“The council would like us to prohibit this from happening in the future,” Wright said days after the meeting. “We have a whole menu of tree regulations, except for lots of this size.”

Along with tree retention, Wright brought up that it also would be a good idea to have some type of vegetation buffer between the private homes and trails.

Looking to the future, Wright said there are 990 lots of similar size on the island. Of those, 346 are undeveloped. Only 70 of those, however, don’t contain any critical areas. “So, potentially they could be clear cut,” Wright said.

Previously, city government had decided that lots of 12,500 square feet were so small that the homes themselves would take up so much of the site that there wouldn’t be much room for trees.

But Councilmember Michael Pollock said large homes shouldn’t be built on such small lots.

“Build smaller homes,” he said, “instead of the biggest house so you can sell it for as much money as you can make. It’s out of proportion for the size of the lot.”

It was said that such a law might make more sense in a more dense, urban area, but not on the island. An idea called tree units also was mentioned, but ultimately would not save many trees so that concept was abandoned.

“I don’t support the use of tree units. That wouldn’t solve the problem,” Councilmember Christy Carr said, adding trees could still be removed, but smaller ones replanted.

Wright said this issue has come up at a good time as an island-wide tree ordinance is being worked on. She said staff will provide the council with an option to consider that would ensure trees and vegetation are retained and/or required to be replanted on such lots.

A public hearing on it would take place in late November or early December, she added.

Along with cutting down 50 trees, other complaints alleged by Friends of Battle Point Neighborhood include:

• Not notified of development.

• Fairy Dell Trail damaged by dumped trees.

• Questions about permit and septic field near a seasonal creek.

They also asked the council to strengthen development laws to:

• Post public hearing notices in neighborhoods of development.

•Call for an environmental impact report when property may have deteriorating effects.

•Hold developers to the same standards of tree removal as homeowners. One of their members was given grief for trying to remove a small maple.

•Make sure developments fit into the existing neighborhood.