Several North Side neighborhoods are opposing the city of Spokane’s proposed street tree ordinance, saying the plan needs more time and more discussion.
The Assembly of Neighborhood Councils hasn’t officially taken a stand for or against the ordinance.
The chairman for the assembly said they haven’t had enough time to study the document, take it back to their neighborhoods and return for a second meeting.
The latest draft of the ordinance was dated March 6. The park board met and approved the ordinance March 12. The neighborhood assembly won’t meet again until April 14. But the ordinance is expected to come before City Council for adoption in April.
If approved, residents who want to plant a tree would need a permit. Major pruning would require a permit and a city-approved arborist. Fees haven’t been set.
The assembly’s tree committee plans to oppose the ordinance, said Jay Cousins, chairman of the neighborhood assembly and chairman of the neighborhood tree committee.
“Our public process is messy and slow, that’s the nature of the beast. We need time to go back to neighborhoods with this,” said Cousins.
Several neighborhoods have voted to oppose the ordinance, including Emerson-Garfield, Garry Park and Logan. West Central neighborhood has discussed the various drafts at great length, but hasn’t taken an official vote.
“It’s a little harsh in some areas,” said Paul Soper, West Central neighborhood president. “People who are acting responsibly are being penalized and the penalties are excessive. But we all agree we need some kind of uniform provision,” he added.
Nevada-Lidgerwood neighborhood hasn’t taken an official stance. However, Friday the neighborhood hosted a potluck get-together for council officers from throughout the city. The proposed tree ordinance was a main topic of discussion.
“The flavor of the conversation was that the ordinance is too punitive, too many sticks and not enough carrots,” said Mickey Thompson. “I think the general consensus is that we need more discussion.”
Thompson said the committee didn’t incorporate neighborhood concerns into the final draft.
“Personally, I’d like to see the city tree committee come before the neighborhood assembly to discuss it, and see what kind of compromises we can make,” said Thompson.
Bemiss residents said the proposed ordinance leaves citizens out of the process.
“We’d like to at least have some future contact with the parks board,” said Bemiss chair Marlene Stewart.
North Indian Trail neighborhood is still studying the ordinance. Five Mile Prairie hasn’t taken a position on the ordinance.
“As part of our process, we have requested street tree ordinances from around the country. Most of them look nothing like our ordinance,” said Cousins. “They are more specific, more user-friendly.
Clyde Timboe, from Logan neighborhood, said he spoke personally to eight different cities including Eugene, Boise, Moscow about their tree ordinances.
“Our tree ordinance is very punitive,” said Timboe, noting the ordinance for Eugene was the most impressive and that Boise is on the verge of redoing their ordinance. Timboe added his voice to complaints that the process was rushed, and it was difficult for citizens to participate.
Cousins said neighborhood input hasn’t been taken seriously.
“It just doesn’t show up, there isn’t any real negotiated process,” he said.
Residents attending the park board hearing were given two minutes each to speak, not enough time, said Cousins.
“It made no difference that I was there representing the neighborhood councils, I was held to two minutes,” he said.
The ordinance hasn’t been scheduled to go before city council yet, but Cousins said when it is, he encourages neighborhoods to send their representatives.