Street Tree Removal and Replacement

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PERMITS FOR REMOVAL/REPLACEMENT OF REGULATED TREES
Removal of trees within the Right-of-Way (ROW) requires a Right-of-Way Tree (RTRE) permit. All tree removal work performed within the ROW shall be in compliance with American National Standards Institute Z133.1 and comply with Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC) 9.20 Urban Forestry and 13.06.090.B, as well as the standards in the Urban Forestry Manual (UFM).

A Right-of-Way Tree (RTRE) Permit may be granted if the adjacent property owner, or the owner’s authorized agent, can sufficiently demonstrate that the tree(s) represent one of the following categories approved for removal consideration:

  • Hazardous Tree: a tree(s) that is found to be likely to fail and has an extreme or high risk to cause property damage, personal injury or fatality in the event of a failure; designated as such by an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist, who has obtained an ISA Tree Risk Assessor Course and Exam certification or Tree Risk Assessment Qualification.
  • Conflict Tree: a tree that by its presence in the public Right-of-Way directly conflicts or interferes with (a) construction or installation of a utility or public Right-of-Way improvement; (b) activities performed in the public Right-of-Way to repair or maintain a utility or public Right-of-Way improvement; (c) development of real property nearest to and directly abutting that portion of the public Right-of-Way upon which the street tree is located; or that, (d) damages existing improvements within the Right-of-Way or abutting property. A tree conflicts or interferes when it is demonstrated that there are no reasonable alternatives available to removal of the conflict tree.
    • Conflict Tree Removals are subject to a Canopy Loss Fee of $125/caliper inch of tree removed minus an equal caliper inch credit for replacement trees planted.
      • Example: One 10-inch caliper tree is removed, three 2-inch caliper trees are replanted. 10 inches minus 6 inches (three 2-inch trees) equals 4 inches X $125 = Canopy Loss Fee of $500.
    • Tree Damaging Sidewalk: where no reasonable alternative to sidewalk repair can be made without removal of the tree
    • Prohibited Tree: a species of tree that is unlawful to plant in the public right-of-way pursuant to the adopted Prohibited Tree List of the Urban Forest Manual.
    • Nuisance Tree: a tree that constitutes a public nuisance pursuant to Chapter 8.30 TMC.
    • Fruit Tree
    • Significantly Damaged Tree: a tree that has been previously topped or significantly damaged to an extent that, if left unmanaged through extensive pruning and maintenance, could become a future Hazard Tree.

 A review fee and Canopy Loss Fee only apply to Conflict Trees.  All other Tree Work in the ROW permit types are no-fee permits.

 The following shall not be considered criteria for removal:

  • Obstruction of view.
  • The cost of routine tree maintenance (pruning, watering, fertilizing, etc.).
  • Normal maintenance such as raking of leaves and flowers and cleaning of gutters.
  • Hazards that can be controlled or eliminated through appropriate pruning or maintenance; or,
  • Potential damage to public infrastructure or private property, if damage can be avoided by pruning, root pruning, root barriers or other management strategies.

 If a tree removal permit is approved, all stumps and surface roots of trees removed shall also be ground or removed to at least 8 inches below the surface of the ground, following removal of the tree. 

 Tree Replacement
The City requires tree replacement as a standard condition for issuance of a permit for removal of a tree.  Replacement trees should be chosen from a list of permitted trees in the Urban Forestry Manual (UFM) permitted tree list. Trees not on the permitted tree list may be approved with supplemental information.

Exceptions to Permits Prior to Work
Exceptions are for emergency removals necessary to mitigate a threat to public health and safety or welfare. In those instances, the City must be notified of the hazardous conditions warranting the removal of the tree immediately (prior to removal), and a Tree Work in the ROW Permit must be obtained prior to or within 30 days of removal. If a street tree is an imminent hazard, call (253) 591-5495, to request an emergency inspection.

Traffic Control
Traffic Control Plans are needed for activities in or near the ROW where equipment, materials, or people entering or using the street and sidewalk areas could create safety hazards or traffic congestion. Traffic Control Plans must be submitted with the Tree Work in the ROW Permit and must comply with the City of Tacoma Traffic Control Handbook. The property owner or tree care provider must provide appropriate traffic control during all regulated tree work operations.

Private Property Tree Removal
You may need a permit if your property is located in or near critical areas. Critical areas include:

  • Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas
  • Critical aquifer recharge areas
  • Geologically hazardous areas
  • Flood hazard areas
  • Stream corridors
  • Wetlands

Please call the Permit Counter at (253) 591-5030 and a Permit Specialist will review your property status to determine if a permit is required.

 

APPLICATION CHECKLIST FOR STREET TREE REMOVAL & REPLACEMENT PERMIT:

  • Simple site plan with location of tree
  • Photograph or digital image clearly delineating each street tree proposed to be removed.
  • Contact information of adjacent property owner
  • If the permit applicant is not the abutting owner and is making off-site improvements under a project permit, the following additional notice requirements shall apply when a street tree is proposed to be removed: permittee shall provide written notice by mail to the last known address of record of the owner of the abutting property for a street tree proposed to be removed indicating the intent to remove the street tree(s). Such notice shall include a brief statement of the need and nature of the work intended and the location of the street tree proposed to be removed, a good faith estimate of the time frame in which such work will occur, and how the Permittee can be contacted regarding the street tree work. A copy of the letter that was sent to the abutting owner(s) as well as a list of addresses and contact information the letter was sent to must be uploaded to the permit.
  • Certified Arborist Report (if required), including the name and license # of Certified Arborist. An arborist report is not required for applications for removal of fruit trees or prohibited trees.  An arborist report is required to demonstrate the tree meets one of the following categories for tree removal:
    • Hazardous Tree determined through a Tree Risk Assessment.
    • Conflict Tree where tree removal cannot be avoided.
    • Significantly Damaged Tree to an extent that, if left unmanaged through extensive pruning and maintenance, could become a future Hazard Tree.
  • Street tree removal plan including a description of the proposed plan for removing each street tree, meeting all necessary traffic control measures of the City of Tacoma Traffic Control Handbook, as applicable.
  • Species to be removed (scientific and common name)
  • Tree size DBH (diameter of the tree trunk measured at 4’-6” above the ground)
  • Replacement tree information including Species (scientific and common name) and size.

 

The City of Tacoma Municipal Code regulating trees in the public right-of-way can be found here.  Failure to obtain a permit or meet the conditions of the permit may result in enforcement actions and fines as described in TMC 9.20.

 

 

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