Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend told citizens Tuesday night that Sammamish now has the toughest tree ordinance in the State.
This may well be true. But it’s too little, too late.
The ordinance requires developers–and individuals–who are building to retain 35% of the trees on site, up from 25%. It also requires reforestation, though this could be elsewhere in the City, not on site.
Large fines are now included for violations.
This is better than the previous ordinance, which aside from the lower retention number had toothless fines.
But by the time the ordinance was adopted last year, 97.5% of the land in Sammamish was already built out or vested to the old standard. Only 2.5% of the land for new projects is affected by the new ordinance.
The new ordinance could have had even tougher penalties. This writer suggested to the Council in 2014 that a new ordinance include the penalty of a six month stop work order on developers who egregiously violated tree removal restrictions. This would have to be defined for proportionality, of course. But the Council didn’t even discuss the idea.
There was a vast lack of vision going back years. Former Mayor Tom Vance, who was defeated last November for reelection, tried to make the new tree ordinance one of the center pieces of his campaign. But he was also chairman of the Planning Commission in 2009-10. No tree ordinance was proposed then.
Gerend and Kathy Huckabay were original members of the City Council, dating to 1999. Gerend has served continuously since. Huckabay took a four year hiatus from 2010-2014, and rejoined the Council in 2014. Member Tom Odell has been on the Council since 2010. Ramiro Valderrama joined in 2012. The other current Council Members were elected later: Bob Keller in 2013 (taking his seat in January 2014); Christie Malchow and Tom Hornish were seated just this last January.
Gerend and Huckabay had ample time to come up with a tough tree ordinance since the inception of the City. Odell was on the Council for five years before acting. Valderrama had three years to act. Although at any of these points in time, the majority of the City was already built out or vested to previous standards, adopting a tough tree ordinance long before last year would have had some impact. Today, the impact in going to be minimal.
Toughest tree ordinance in the state? Maybe. But it’s too late for Sammamish. It’s just a political talking point.