Confusion about tree removal prompts residents to ask for help
A plan to prune limbs and cut some trees at a Bellingham Housing Authority property this summer has raised concerns for some residents and neighbors.
They heard that the housing authority was cutting down healthy beautiful cedar trees at its Falls Park Homes property, 3603 Fraser St., to save the trouble of cleaning what dropped from the trees onto the roofs, they told The Bellingham Herald. They worried about the loss of wildlife habitat and said they thought there were rules to prevent trees from being cut down willy-nilly.
Falls Park Homes is near Whatcom Falls Park. It has 28 residential units for low-income families.
“The tree work we are planning has nothing to do with cleaning the roofs and is focused on the safety of our residents and their homes,” said Brien Thane, the housing authority’s executive director and CEO.
“A number of trees need dangerous branches pruned. A very few trees have been identified as causing structural issues and may have to be removed,” he told The Herald.
High winds could blow down broken limbs while other branches were “hanging excessively over structures,” Thane explained, adding that some have roots growing under slabs, foundations or drives and were damaging them.
Trees have been tagged for potential contractors to examine as they bid for the work. It’s early in the process but Thane estimated that less than handful of the trees needed to be cut down.
The housing authority will require contractors to obtain all required permits, he added.
The trees are a mix of cedar and other conifers.
The housing authority developed Falls Park Homes in 1981, Thane said, so some of the trees are nearly 40 years old.
As for the rules about cutting down trees, what can be done depends on a number of factors.
Here’s a quick and broad look, with information from Amy Cloud of Bellingham’s Public Works Department and Jess Herring, the city’s abatement officer:
▪ People can trim and prune a few trees on their property, including for safety reasons, without having to contact the city.
However, if trees cover a lot and the owner wants to cut them all down to develop the property, then the city must be contacted.
▪ If a tree is in the public right-of-way — a street, sidewalk or alley, for example — and creating a safety hazard, such as falling branches, people should contact Public Works at AskPW@cob.org, or the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department at email@example.com.
▪ If a tree is near parks property, it’s recommended that private property owners contact the Parks Department in case they need a permit to cut it down.
▪ Read about the city’s tree rules at bellingham.municipal.codes/BMC/13.40.030.
▪ Not sure what you should do? It’s best to ask the city.