This amendment to Bellevue's Land Use Code and City Code will update tree preservation, retention, replacement and protection provisions to better support citywide tree canopy goals.
Bellevue's tree canopy is a critical environmental asset and central to the vision of a "City in a Park." Bellevue's Environmental Stewardship Plan Action N.1.1 calls for a comprehensive review and update of provisions in the Land Use Code and City Code for tree preservation, retention, replacement and protection during construction. The city's current code provisions related to trees have been updated periodically, but never in a comprehensive fashion.
On Nov. 21 the City Council initiated work on this set of amendments.
How are trees regulated today?
In most cases, only "significant trees" are subject to permitting or retention requirements. These are currently defined as healthy evergreen or deciduous trees, eight inches in diameter or greater, measured four feet above existing grade. In June 2022, the City Council adopted an interim ordinance establishing a permit requirement to remove "landmark trees," which are significant trees 24 inches or greater in diameter.
Tree removal outside of a development proposal is regulated through the Clearing and Grading Code, Chapter 23.76 BCC, while tree removal as part of a development proposal is regulated through the Land Use Code's tree retention and replacement section, 20.20.900 LUC. In either case, stricter critical areas provisions apply to trees located in critical areas.
Outside of a development proposal, a permit is required to remove trees in the following cases:
- When removing more than five significant trees in any three-year period;
- When removing a landmark tree;
- When removing any significant tree in the Bridle Trails R-1 Land Use District; or
- When removing more than 25% of the live crown of any significant tree
When development is being proposed, LUC 20.20.900 establishes the share of existing significant trees which must be retained with the development. There are different retention requirements for the Bridle Trails R-1 Land Use District, single family development elsewhere in the city and other types of development.
Tree replacement is only required in limited cases, including when removing trees from critical areas or areas with specific landscaping standards and as part of an approved alternative tree retention plan.
What is changing?
City staff will complete a comprehensive review of tree code provisions and develop proposed amendments in the following areas:
- Tree Preservation: Review the definition of significant trees and assess whether/what limits should be placed on a number of significant trees that may be removed with a permit.
- Tree Retention: Clarify tree retention requirements and improve systems for tracking retained trees.
- Tree Replacement: Assess whether tree replacement requirements should be expanded.
- Tree Protection: Codify critical measures to protect retained trees from construction and pruning damage and assess current enforcement mechanisms.
Staff will develop proposed amendments following initial community and stakeholder outreach in early 2023. Additional outreach will follow to provide feedback on the proposal.
What will not change?
These amendments will not change provisions of the Critical Areas Ordinance, which already provides strong protections for significant trees located in critical areas, including replacement requirements.
The Trees, Weeds and Vegetarian chapter of the Transportation Code, which regulates vegetation impacting sidewalks, streets and public rights-of-way, will be updated through a separate project.
Opportunities to Engage
The Planning Commission will hold a study session on July 26. Members of the public are invited to share comments with the commission by writing, in person or via Zoom.
Please send comments to the contact listed on this page. This page will be updated as future engagement opportunities are scheduled. This project also has a dedicated Engaging Bellevue page.
Project Timeline and Schedule
|Date||Meeting or Action Taken||Links|
|11/21/2022||City Council Initiation||City Council Meeting Agenda Materials|
|12/14/2022||Planning Commission Briefing||Planning Commission Meeting Agenda Materials|
|5/24/2023||Planning Commission Check-in||Planning Commission Meeting Agenda Materials|
|6/8/2023||Public Information Session||Staff Presentation|
|6/26/2023||City Council Check-in||City Council Meeting Agenda Materials|
|7/26/2023||Planning Commission Study Session||Planning Commission Meeting Agenda Materials|