Council will decide whether to tweak tree rules

January 12, 2010

By Staff

Bring comments about a proposed amendment to a key development agreement to the next City Council meeting, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19.Officials will consider a tweak to the city tree retention rules on U.S. Postal Service land near the planned Interstate 90 Undercrossing. The council meets in Council Chambers, 135 E. Sunset Way.

The city code requires commercial development to retain 25 of the total caliper — a way to measure trees — of existing significant trees within a site’s developable area. A so-called significant tree is a tree with a diameter greater than six inches at four and a half feet above the ground.

About half of the tree caliper at the site would be preserved under a proposed site development plan. But city staffers determined the 25-percent rule “may be modified when strict compliance would jeopardize the reasonable use of the property,” a city report states.

Council Transportation Committee members reviewed the proposed amendment to the development agreement last week. Council members asked city staffers if the post office received special treatment because the entity is a federal agency.

“They are not being treated any differently than any other developer that would walk in today,” City Administrator Leon Kos said.

After business leaders and residents voiced support for the undercrossing last August, the City Council set aside environmental concerns and approved the development agreement.

Under the agreement, the postal service will give the city an easement along the east side of the undercrossing for future street expansion.

Before the vote, residents raised concerns about post office property near the undercrossing site, prompting officials to review the agreement. City and postal service officials had negotiated a development agreement to allow the city use of a right of way on the land.

The undercrossing would link Northwest Gilman Boulevard to Southeast 56th Street via a two-lane roadway built from the traffic signal at the post office.

Crews will build a manmade wetland in Emily Darst Park to replace wetlands destroyed when teams break ground on the undercrossing and a pedestrian overpass on state Route 900.

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