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Here’s what the owner says about why trees at this Bellingham complex will be cut down

Confusion about tree removal prompts residents to ask for help

When Bellingham and Whatcom County Housing Authorities tagged several large trees in the 28-unit Falls Park Homes complex in Bellingham, Wash., a handful of residents are reached out to find out why in June 2019.
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When Bellingham and Whatcom County Housing Authorities tagged several large trees in the 28-unit Falls Park Homes complex in Bellingham, Wash., a handful of residents are reached out to find out why in June 2019.

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.

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A plan to prune limbs and cut trees at Falls Park Homes in Bellingham in late summer raised concerns for residents and neighbors. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

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.

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Trees in Falls Park Homes, a property with 28 units owned and operated by Bellingham Housing Authority, are marked for cutting with numbered tags in Bellingham last week. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

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 parks@cob.org.

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.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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