Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Minority Report

The Ad Hoc Tree Code Committee had a split.  Two-thirds of the committee went in one direction, and seven souls went in another.  After being outvoted again and again, the splinter group decided to write a "Minority Report".

The main Ad Hoc Tree Code Committee is presenting the Draft Tree Code Amendments to the City Council, while the minority group will propose an alternative code that they feel is more in keeping with the Council's wish that the Tree Code be less burdensome for the average citizen.  If approved, the alternative code would be an addition to the regular code, but stand on its own.  It will be enlightening to compare the alternative code alongside the regular code.  For a better idea of how Lake Oswego's code stacks up with other cities', check out the Oregon City Tree Code - it regulates trees in city right of way, steep slopes and identified riparian zones.

A subcommittee proposal for increased fees and fines was very unpopular with the community and the Tree Code Committee.  None of the suggested changes will be forwarded to the Council.  During the final Ad Hoc Tree Code Committee meeting on Monday, May 23, a proponent rationalized the  proposed increases this way:

"The fines were deliberately meant to be punitive because there's no point in having a fine if it wasn't punitive because what's a fine in the first place if it isn't punishment.   So the idea was to have fines that were extremely punitive so that we would never have to impose them because somebody was concerned enough about getting charged $10,000 or $20,000 for chopping some trees down, and maybe they would put somebody out there watching their hired help to make sure they didn't do something wrong, or check to make sure they hit property line or do a locate before they did, and do something."  

At the same meeting, one of the minority group said that the tree code was the most hated code in the city, and that it seemed designed to keep people from cutting down trees.  Her comments with an interjection from the speaker above are here:

"That whole tone - the way you want to punish people so they don't do bad things.... this whole code is written as if we don't trust the person next door to us....."

"That's exactly right!  If we trusted our neighbors, we wouldn't need tree codes."

".... and that anyone who moves here - a stranger moving into our community - should be immediately be distrusted.  This is nuts.  This is crazy. " 

Read the full story in the Lake Oswego Review, May 26, 2016 By Anthony Mack

Tree committee sends revised code to council
'Minority committee' will also submit a report, saying the proposed changes are still too burdensome

Lake Oswego’s Tree Code Committee met for its final session this week, completing what ultimately became a nine-month review process aimed at making the regulations less burdensome to homeowners.

But the three-hour discussion on Monday evening made it clear that while the proposed changes may have the broad support of the committee, there are still plenty of dissenting opinions.

Both online and at the open house, a number of people expressed concern that the new code was still too restrictive on homeowners. But several others raised the opposite issue, arguing that the new rules don’t do enough to protect Lake Oswego’s extensive tree canopy. The disagreement highlights a core philosophical difference in Lake Oswego about property ownership and the role of cities and neighborhoods in managing trees.

“Is it just their (property), or is it part of a whole? People come to different conclusions based on how they feel connected to the urban forest with their property,” Buck told The Review on Monday. “It’s a balance — trying to get a balanced view. I think we worked really hard to get the package we have.”

“I don’t think that people are all of a sudden going to be taking every single tree down in Lake Oswego. I myself would be protesting in the streets (if that happened),” said (Tracy) Marx. “That’s not at all what we’re saying. We’re just saying let people do what they want on their own property.”

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