Planning manager examines tree protection code amendments with Tumwater Planning Commission


The Tumwater Planning Commission held a work session last Tuesday, May 23, to discuss questions about the draft amendments for Tumwater Municipal Code (TMC) 16.08 on the protection of trees and vegetation.

Commissioners were given a document in advance that contained the draft amendments collected from the May 9 Joint Briefing with the Tree Board.

Tumwater City Council has identified urban forestry as one of its four priority actions for 2022-23, giving way to the adoption of the Urban Forestry Management Plan on March 2, 2021.

The next step in implementing the plan is to prepare updates to the city's tree protection regulations contained in TMC 16.08.

Based on the information gathered through a consultation process, the consultant and staff prepared amendments to the code subject for consideration by the Planning Commission and Tree Board.

Planning Manager Brad Medrud prompted and answered the questions from the commissioners, which were mostly clarifications about the revisions.

“What I wanted to do today is allow the commissioners time to ask any questions based on all the material two weeks ago. There'll be a lot of stuff to go through. In fact, on the staff side, we are still working through some of the finer details,” Medrud said.

Commissioner Michael Tobias asked about the plan’s carbon offset and canopy coverage considerations, which are aimed at protecting trees that disperse the effect of heat islands in an urban/suburban environment with a lot of asphalt.

“While we have the requirements for innovation or replanting for development, [will] the carbon offsets be done like other types of shrub or other plants that necessarily provide canopy coverage or is it like strictly for trees and the way the city has it set up?”

“We have things that we're doing through the climate mitigation plan where, at a broad level we're looking at overall canopy and how that may contribute to carbon reduction. But we don't have anything necessarily set up as goals or so forth, either in the policy document or the urban forestry plan or on the regulatory side. We tried to keep it fairly simple on the urban forestry management plan by concentrating on tree canopy as our primary means of measuring success,” Medrud replied.

Commissioners also clarified the existing canopy coverage of the city, to which Medrud answered that it is close to 50%.

Medrud shared that aside from the existing coverage, the amendments’ additional coverage goals are done anticipating that the city has a lot of undeveloped lands that would probably be turned into commercial, industrial, or residential land in the future.

“We would lose coverage over time. Our coverage would probably do this with the expectation by the end of the 20-year plan that we will be above what we started. We know we are going to have a dip because of development,” Medrud explained.

Some of the amendments are as follows:

  • An applicability clause was added, which states that ‘provisions of this chapter shall apply to all lands, buildings, structures, land uses, and activities located within the city. If the requirements imposed by this chapter conflict with other requirements, the more restrictive requirements shall apply’.
  • A new section about Landmark Trees was added, to recognize that larger trees can provide greater benefits such as carbon sequestration, habitat, and other environmental goals and they should be retained where possible.
  • A new section about Tree Credits was added, to quantify tree retention and replacement for existing or replacement trees or both. Tree credit models are similar to a timber stocking level that quantifies density based on the trunk diameter of existing trees. This is considered a general indicator of tree size and canopy cover over time.
  • A new section on Tree Removal Not Associated With Development – Minor Tree and Vegetation Removal Permit was added to describe minor tree removal permits for removal on properties that are not part of a development permit application being reviewed.
  • A new section on Forest Management Plan was added to address larger properties where a full-scale forest practice application may not be applicable, but the property owner wants to manage the urban forest actively on the land.
  • Heritage trees: added a more detailed framework for how the City evaluates heritage trees, specified permit requirements related to heritage tree removal
  • Forest Practice Applications: revised and updated the permit requirements for land clearing and Class IV application
  • Tree and vegetation removal permits: integrated the current land clearing permit process into the proposed minor and major tree removal permit process.
    • Minor tree removal permits would be for tree removal on properties that are not part of a development permit application being reviewed.
    • Major tree removal permits would be for tree removal on properties that are part of a development permit application being reviewed.
    • Updating the materials required to be submitted with permit applications.


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  • C K

    Much too much government control.

    Friday, May 26, 2023 Report this