Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The city identifies four locations for Group Health's Overlake clear-cut tree mitigation, City concedes additional densities to landowner

Current Group Health site - parking lot
 and treed canopy
UPDATED:  The entire 28-acre "Group Health Overlake Center" site is approved for complete clear-cutting (in phases) once development gets underway.  City council agreed 6-1 to an Exception of the long-standing ordinance that requires 35% retention of all trees in land use projects.    Over 1,100 of the original significant trees and larger landmark trees will be removed.

Bill Biggs, the proponent for landowner Group Health, presented a sealed offer during the December 13 meeting to assuage council and the large crowd speaking against 100% tree removal.  Council held off on their decision  to review Mr. Biggs offer.  (Mr. Biggs is also President of the Redmond Economic Development Alliance).

Mr. Bigg's offer was solely about the park.  It was reviewed by city staff and accepted by council on January 3, as this ammendment:
"The City shall design and install additional park improvements consistent with its neighborhood park standards RZC 21...."  In the process of designing the Park, the City shall consider retention of existing significant and landmark trees where feasible and consistent with good park design and public safety.  The Owner and members of the community shall be consulted and given opportunity to comment on proposed park features, design and materials. 
The City shall seek opportunities for preservation of trees in connection with the design of the Park"    
Associate city planner Dennis Lisk wrote:  "I looked into the number of significant and landmark trees located within the area of the future park and found approximately 12 significant trees, none of which are landmark trees."  Mr. Lisk said there was no guarantee these park trees would be retained, or any others.

Four-hundred trees are slated for planting on the site.  Their size is undefined, as to sapling or 12 foot standard trees.  Rain gardens, planted courtyards, pervious roads, and other LID features are planned.

To compensate for the tree removal, Group Health will plant 3,345 trees and 31,220 shrubs off site in parks and near creeks "to approximate the environmental benefits" of the Group Health forest canopy.  Once Group Health sells it's first parcel for development, ~250 trees will be planted in each of the following 2-acre sites:
  • Juel Park (east)  [city contact:  Betty Sanders, bbsanders@redmond.gov]
  • Perrigo Park (west)  [city contact:  Betty Sanders]
  • Millennium Office Park/Swedish easement adjacent Bear Creek. [city contact: Dennis Lisk, ddlisk@redmond.gov]
  • Viewpoint Open Space (after blackberries are cleared).  city contact:  [Betty Sanders]
Group Health will have another 2,300 trees and thousands of shrubs to plant at presently, unidentified locations. 

Of note, according to Lisk, "60% of the parking is underground and expensive and, as a concession to Group Health for this expense additional densities were permitted by the City."  i.e. building height and number of buildings.  Another, unnamed city official said density concessions were given in the earlier planning stages to retain the trees.

Comments are welcome. 

Reported by Bob Yoder
Photo by Yoder


Douglas Burchard said...

It's easy to assume the four listed parks would have received new trees regardless of the developer's actions. So, while this might reduce costs to the city, it won't result in offsetting trees removed from the Overlake property.

The developer should be required to purchase their own property, plant trees, and gauantee the survival of those trees for a reasonable period of time -- 99-years for example. Such a requirement has been place on developers in the past, in other areas of the U.S., and isn't unreasonable to expect here.

PaigeN said...

So, let me get this straight. It's okay to overlook (override) a CURRENT City ordinance requiring 35% retention of trees because the current owner and the council agrees it's okay.

And, the current owner has agreed to pay for and plant a lot of other trees in other places.

But the land will still be clear-cut and void of trees that have stood there for many years.


Bob Yoder said...

Your thoughtful and provocative comment is something city staff can learn from in their negotiations and with foresight. Thanks for sharing, Mr. Burchard. I personally feel Group Health needs to be held accountable by the City in the mitigation process -- for taxpayers AND the environmental benefit, as follows:

1) Copies of plant material invoices should be available to the public and city to document the purchase and inventory of trees and shrubs purchased by Group Health.

2) Labor costs for the entire mitigation, including planting and handling, should be documented as paid by Group Health.

3) Plant warranties and a performance bonds should be filed and on record.

4) Group Health should refund to taxpayers the cost of grading and clearing 35% of the site for their precedent setting break in our "forever standing" tree retention code.

5) The installed plant material should be mapped and ID'ed with marker tape so as to delineate the 2-acre GH mitigation sites from city and non-profit installations e.g. Cascade Conservancy.

Again, thank you Mr. Burchard (and Paige) for stimulating ideas and thought on this project and encouraging others to comment.

Please do!