The Winter, 2013 issue of Redmond Focus spoke with pride on the tree retention plan and replacement trees to be planted as compensation for those lost during construction of the Greystone housing development in North Redmond. In April, 2013 Sustainable Redmond presented the City Council with findings from a Natural Resources study of Redmond’s tree retention practices which included a statistical analysis of Greystone. Here are our findings based on the public record:
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Greystone had a total of 2,027 trees, 1757 of which were “healthy” enough to consider retaining. Of the 1757 remaining, 1426 were “significant” and measured at least 6 inches diameter which were therefore subject to the 35% retention standard per City code, hence the retained number of 500 (the minimum standard) was met in this category of trees. However, this allowed removal of 926 healthy trees. “Landmark” trees, which measure over 30 inches in diameter numbered 331 of which 100% should have been retained under City code. By obtaining an administrative exception to this code provision, the developer retained only 38% - 126 with 205 of these large trees removed – 62% below the prescribed standard of 100%. Of the original 2,027 trees in Greystone’s arborist inventory, only 627 were saved. The replacement of these trees at ratios demanded by code is commendable, but the saplings to be planted do not compensate for the ecological value of the trees lost through this development or the added environmental benefits provided by smaller trees and understory.
The Sustainable Redmond study also calculated the environmental services provided by forests and trees affected by development in Redmond since 2010. Those services include stormwater runoff prevented, carbon sequestered and carbon dioxide cleaned from the atmosphere. The larger the trees, the more environmental services they provide. In the case of Greystone, the trees removed provided over $67,000 in environmental services annually based on a nationally accepted analysis program that factors in tree size and species. “Significant” trees removed would have saved 1,224,681 gallons of stormwater runoff with treatment valued at $34,030 and sequestered 284,393 pounds of CO2 valued at $954. The 205 “landmark” trees would have saved 1,027,112 gallons of stormwater with a value of $28,544 and sequestered 104,720 pounds of carbon valued at $351. The annual air quality improvements of these trees was calculated to be worth $2,028 and $1,148 respectively. These are conservative figures since ecological contributions from less healthy trees or smaller vegetation was not quantified. A dollar value cannot be placed on habitat lost or aesthetic qualities removed from the community that contribute to both mental and physical well-being of the neighborhood.
Although the number of replacement trees noted in the Focus article seems imposing, there will be no adequate replacement for the environmental services provided by the trees removed from this 44-acre site generations….hardly “temporal.” Sustainable Redmond will continue to advocate for a more transparent administrative exception process accompanied by full public notice and more stringent application of existing City tree preservation regulations.
Tom Hinman for