City Council Dec. 16 to consider MLT tree ordinance, tree care policy

A tree at Ballinger Park. (MLTnews file photo)

The Mountlake Terrace City Council at its Dcc. 16 business meeting will consider passage of a tree care ordinance and tree care plan that would qualify the city for Tree City USA recognition through the Arbor Day Foundation.

The council heard details of the proposal during its Dec. 12 work/study session. Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz explained that the council has had a long-term interest in earning the Tree City USA designation, which provides “a framework for communities to manage and expand their public tree inventory and in turn expand the benefits that trees give us.” More than 3,400 communities nationwide that have received the designation, he added.

To earn Tree City USA status, the city has to satisfy four core standards:

– Establish and maintain a tree board. The ordinance designates the city’s existing Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission (RPAC) to fulfill this function.

– Adopt a tree ordinance, which applies only to trees on public property, including right of way, parks and city-owned facilities.

– Spend at least $2 per capita annually on urban forestry. (Betz noted that in 2019, the recreation and parks department spent more than $50,000 on various tree-related initiatives, including hiring arborists to look at certain trees, tree removal and staff time.)

– Celebrate Arbor Day. (The city already does this in conjunction with Earth Day, in April.)

The city will also provide an annual report to the Arbor Day Foundation outlining the various tasks performed.

The ordinance before council Dec. 16 mostly reflects what the city is already doing, Betts said. “It just dictates how different city staff, departments and commissions will interact with each other in regard to tree care,” he explained, adding that’s important because often these tasks overlap.

“The idea behind all this, a public tree care policy, is really to expand the tree canopy on public property. That’s the bottom line,” Betz said. The policy outlines methods the city will undertake to do this, including tree care, tree planting, tree species to be planted, prohibited trees, penalties for destroying trees, tree trimming, and heritage trees. Some of these categories, such as prohibited tree species and species to be planted, are general in nature. More specific lists will be developed with the assistance of RPAC, Betz said.

RPAC at its Nov. 12 meeting reviewed and recommended passage of the tree ordinance and public tree care policy. The Arbor Day Foundation and Washington State Department of Natural Resources — which oversees state Tree City USA programs — both reviewed the measures and said the city satisfied the program requirements. The Mountlake Terrace Planning Commission on Nov. 25 also recommended passage of the ordinance and related policy. Betz said the city in mid-November received a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) determination of non-significance related to the proposal. The SEPA determination identified no negative impacts but pointed to “plenty of positive impacts expected,” Betz added. These include an increase in the city’s tree canopy and a potential increase in wildlife, stormwater management benefits, the capture of greenhouse gas emissions, and a cooling effect on pavement and other urban spaces.

Councilmember Laura Sonmore asked if the policy would apply to trees the city will purchase to replace those removed by Sound Transit as part of Link light rail construction. Betz said it would, and explained the city hopes to hire a consultant in fall 2020 — funded by Sound Transit dollars– that would help the city develop a plan for where and how to plant those trees on public property.

The council Dec. 12 also discussed next steps for forming a city Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission, and agreed that City Manager Scott Hugill should convene a task force to determine recommendations on whether and how such a commission should be established.

And councilmembers heard a report on a proposal to purchase a prefabricated concrete restroom and outdoor shower for the Ballinger Park boat launch. The current restroom was built in the late 1970s and doesn’t meet ADA standards. The restroom will have four ADA-accessible family restrooms that allow for full wheelchair access and range of movement. Each restroom will be equipped with stainless steel sinks, toilets and hand dryers. and will have electronic locking doors that can be preprogrammed so the city can ensure security after hours. The $158,808 restroom cost will be funded through state grant money.

That restroom purchase will be on the council’s Dec. 16 meeting  consent agenda. Measures on the consent agenda aren’t scheduled to be discussed, although the topics have been reviewed in earlier meetings. Other items on the consent agenda include approval of:

– A 2020 professional services agreements for state and federal governmental relations. This includes $46,200 with Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs for state lobbying and $53,700 with The Johnston Group for federal lobbying.

– Appointing Rory Paine-Donovan to the Mountlake Terrace Planning Commission.

– The 2020 State Legislative Agenda, which can be viewed here.

– The 2019-2021 Teamsters Local 763 labor agreement, which includes a 3% wage increase, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019, for 2019 and a 2.75% increase for the years 2020 and 2021. The compounding cost of the salary increases are $201,048 over the three-year period. The city will also pay 90% of the medical coverage for dependents,  up from 80% previously.

– A Terrace Brier Soccer Club field use agreement.

– A professional services agreement with Feldman & Lee to provide public defender services, at a cost of $162,000 for the years 2020 and 2021, with a 3% increase in 2022. Feldman & Lee has been providing public defender services to the city for several years.

The Dec. 16 meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in interim Mountlake Terrace City Hall, 6100 219th St. S.W., 2nd floor. You can see the complete agenda here.

– By Teresa Wippel

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