Tumwater deliberates new ideas for incentives and protection of trees


Tumwater’s tree board and planning commission deliberated on proposed ideas for the protection of trees and vegetation covered by a chapter of the Tumwater Municipal Code during a joint meeting held on Tuesday, January 10.

Kim Frappier, a consultant from The Watershed Company, led the discussion highlighting certain sections of a gap analysis on TMC Chapter 16.08. She shared the suggestions made during previous stakeholder meetings and asked for input from members of the tree board and planning commission.

Among the topics discussed were different ways to quantify tree retention, incentives for tree preservation, and classifying land clearing permit types.

Frappier said that under the current code, not more than 30% of the trees on a parcel should be removed within 10 years unless the clearing is part of a development plan. If the clearing is part of a plan, not less than 20% or 12 trees per acre — whichever is bigger — should be retained.

Frappier discussed two models for thinking about  how to select the trees to be retained. First was the tree credit or point system, in which trees are assigned credits based on their diameter, species, and condition. Frappier said that the tree code could specify a minimum number of credits required to remain on the property, with the number of credits depending on the size of the parcel.

She said that Olympia, Burien, Kirkland, and Woodinville use variations of the tree credit system.

Another model is to measure the canopy cover via ground survey or aerial estimation. As with the tree credit system, Frappier said that the code could specify a minimum percent cover required to remain on the site.

Jurisdictions using the canopy cover system are Lake Forest Park and Snohomish County, according to Frappier.

Differentiated permit types

A permit is required in Tumwater for all land clearing involving the removal of a tree. The municipal code currently does not differentiate requirements for properties with and without existing developments.

Frapier discussed that land clearing permit types could be categorized between major and minor. Major permits would be for large-scale land clearing in preparation for a new development project, while minor permits would be associated with existing property owners.

She said that jurisdictions that use a similar system include Kirkland, Burien, and Mercer Island.

Incentives for tree preservation

The municipal code of Tumwater currently does not include provisions to incentivize the preservation of more trees than is required. Frappier said that incentives suggested by people during a previous stakeholder meeting include expediting the permitting process, reducing permit or stormwater fees, and tax breaks. There were also suggestions to make unique incentives for small forest landowners.

Updating Chapter 16.08 is part of the Urban Forestry Management Plan, which the city adopted in March 2021. The tree board and planning commission are also working on updates for the city street plan and chapters of the municipal code dealing with street trees and landscaping.


4 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Deskandchairs

    Let the trees stay in the forest where they can live their lives in peace and fall down without damaging property. Bushes and shrubs are appropriate for urban settings!

    Friday, January 13 Report this

  • olyhiker

    One problem is that developers plant trees in parking strips that are inappropriate for the space available. In a few years, the roots begin pushing up the sidewalk. I see this time and again. It's the reason behind all the sidewalk trippers.

    Saturday, January 14 Report this

  • Miller19

    Figure out a way to incentivize underground parking so builders aren’t required to have big parking lots.

    Monday, January 16 Report this

  • KimDobson

    Tumwater could save about 100 acres of mature forest 75 year old Doug firs and Mazama pocket gopher habitat by forbidding the Port of Olympias destructive leases on airport property . Too late, the 3 Commissioners Downing . Evans and Iyall voted to allow clear cutting the 100 acre forest on their 200 acre lease for Panittoni Warehouse corporation who will pave the 200 acre site and build giant warehouses adjacent to Bush Middle School ( add to that the Swire CocaCola bottling plant on 95 acres of Mazama Pocket Gopher habitat) . The current "Tree Preservation proposal " under consideration is just a public relations gambit window dressing / virtue signaling to cover a corporate Warehouse boom on properties adjacent to I-5 all the way to 93rd ave which Tumwater city manager ,Council and Planning commission are rubber stamping . It's an all familiar pattern of environmental destruction sweeping the planet in the name of Corporate greed and corrupt governments with lax oversight .

    Monday, January 16 Report this