March 27, 1998 in City

Let City Be Helper, Not Our Overseer Cut The Sanctions Trust Property Owners And Seek Cooperation

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane’s street trees are an asset, exactly comparable to lovely homes and well-manicured lawns. Which is to say, these assets are privately owned, the result of individual pride, initiative, work and expense.

No amount of emotional rhetoric can make these trees “belong to all of us,” as advocates of a proposed street tree ordinance tend to assert. According to city attorneys, most of the trees in city rights-of-way were planted by homeowners and belong to homeowners.

However, the Spokane Park Board has urged the City Council to launch a program that would bustle into private neighborhoods with bossy rules, costly fees and threatening fines.

The city’s neighborhood groups ought to be included in this decision. Yet the only neighborhoods that have taken a stand are opposed to the Park Board’s draft. Others are still debating it, raising concerns that the proposal is “punitive.”

Objectionable parts of the proposal would require homeowners to get a permit from the city before planting a street tree, removing a street tree, or pruning a branch larger than two inches in diameter. Fastening ropes or signs to trees would be verboten. Homeowners would have to pay licensed arborists to cut limbs more than two inches thick. Violators would face $250 fines. Homeowners who remove a tree without a permit may have to pay the city for the tree’s value, to be calculated by a formula that appraises mature trees as high as $10,000.

All this, for privately owned trees? City officials claim they wouldn’t aggressively enforce the sanctions and that the emphasis would be on education and cooperation.

Sanctions that would alienate the public and wouldn’t be enforced should not be enacted.

A better law to protect street trees would commit the city to a helpful program of education and monitoring. Period. This would be consistent with the spirit of private self-interest that has motivated planting and maintenance of trees for a century.

The public does need more information about tree care and replanting, especially with the first generation of street trees now dying. But if homeowners assume the costs and responsibilities, they should retain the rights and the discretion. Those who reside in Spokane’s neighborhoods are the best judges of how to keep their neighborhoods attractive.

, DataTimes MEMO: For opposing view, see “Way to engender more quality care”

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board

For opposing view, see “Way to engender more quality care”

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board


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