The press release by the mayor of Black Diamond regarding unpermitted tree removal by YarrowBay left out two important facts. The first, and probably the primary cause of the controversy, was that it took 48 days for the city to respond to a request for enforcement. During those 48 days the mayor refused to discuss the matter, saying that it was in the hands of the city attorney. More importantly, the mayor’s press release claimed that enforcement was done properly under Chapter 18.02 of the Black Diamond municipal code. That is not correct. When there is voluntary correction by a code violator, the city is required by the code to write a correction notice that details what action the violator must perform to avoid a violation notice. None was ever written. Instead, the city issued an after-the-fact permit to YarrowBay to remove 113 trees and pay the normal $50 per tree charge for removal of significant trees in lieu of replanting. The mayor claims that not all of the trees were significant; implying that charging $50 for every tree caused Yarrow Bay to pay extra costs and those extra costs were the corrective action. In other words, the city subverted its own code to avoid issuing a correction notice and to charge an extra fee. We still don’t know how many of the 113 trees were actually significant so we don’t even know the size of the extra fee.
The tree ordinance calls for a six year ban of issuing permits for development of property where a significant tree has been removed without permit. This is a harsh penalty and the city may accept lesser corrective action instead of the ban. However, that action must be spelled out in a correction notice. An appropriate plan would have required remedial action for YarrowBay’s lack of subcontractor oversight. Remedial action could have included explicit directions in all subcontracts, approval of subcontractor procedures, and on-site inspection while operations are in progress. As it was, there was no corrective action.