Poulsbo Planning Commission workshops tree clearing ordinance

The planning commission held its first of at least two workshops with the Poulsbo City Council during its June 5 meeting, regarding the development of an ordinance restricting tree cutting and clearing.

The first step of the process was to separate the ordinance from a road grading ordinance which previously encompassed tree clearing as well.

The drafting process for this ordinance began March 8. The first workshop within the planning commission itself was March 12, with the first public hearing held by the planning commission on May 28. A public hearing hosted by the city council is tentatively scheduled for July 10.

There currently exists no city ordinance related to tree clearing and city road grading, other then policies established by Kitsap County and other policies that the planning commission has adopted internally.

“We didn’t have much on the books regarding tree removal, which is an issue we deal with almost daily,” said Associate Planner Nikole Coleman.

“We have had internal policies over the years and are looking to turn them into real city codes to help inform the public.”

Coleman gave a presentation outlining the purpose of tree cutting and clearing, proposed policy around tree removal, what will be allowed and what will be exempt and why.

The purpose of the regulations is to preserve the wooded character of Poulsbo, as well as to preserve the public interest in land alteration and recognize that there will be circumstances in which the removal of trees may be necessary.

The proposed ordinance would require that property owners and developers obtain a tree cutting and clearing permit for properties over 7,000 square feet. For properties under the 7,000-square-foot threshold, a permit would not be necessary.

Other exemptions include:

• Routine maintenance and landscaping

• Removal of dead, dying, damaged and diseased trees

• Removal of trees that pose a danger to people or property

The proposed ordinance also covers best practices for class four forests, or lands within the city limits used for timber production. The ordinance would not allow for a property owner or developer to harvest timber within city limits.

“This is good, because up until this point we (City of Poulsbo) didn’t have any power to say no to someone who wanted to harvest large sections of timber,” said Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson.

For trees in critical areas or along the shoreline, per the draft ordinance, property owners would need to consult with the Planning and Economic Development department for any kind of clearing within those areas or the surrounding buffer zones.