Tree Regulations and Permit Requirements

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The Burien City Council adopted new tree regulations to protect trees on private property in Burien during their October 3, 2022 meeting. The new regulations support goals of the City of Burien’s Comprehensive PlanClimate Action Plan, and Green Burien Urban Forest Stewardship Plan.

The regulations went into effect on October 12, 2022. While fines will not go into effect until March 1, 2023, the City of Burien will keep a record of violations.

Call before you cut!


The City of Burien arborist and urban forest planner is available to answer questions on the permitting process.

Call (206) 241-4647 or email [email protected].

Permit Requirements

 

The revised regulations require private property owners to secure a tree permit before:

  • Removing exceptional trees, defined as a tree that is large for its species.
  • Removing more than one tree per year. More trees may be removed if lot is greater than 5,000 square feet.
  • When tree removal results in a lot below the required tree credit density, which is based on lot size. The larger the lot, the more trees must be preserved or replanted.
  • Topping trees.
  • Pruning more than 25 percent of a tree’s canopy.

A permit is not required for removal of small trees that are not considered “significant”, which are trees below six inches in diameter at 4.5 feet above the ground. A permit is not required for pruning a hedge.

 

Every single-family residential and multifamily residential lot must preserve a minimum tree credit density which varies based on the size of the lot. If tree removal results in less than the minimum tree credits on a lot, trees must be replaced. This ensures that every lot will have some number of trees on the property.

The regulations emphasize retention of large and healthy trees during construction of new developments and replacing trees that have been removed. Additional tree protection standards have been added to ensure that the trees identified for retention are adequately protected throughout development.

Shorelines, Critical Areas, and Associated Buffers

Separate code sections regulate shorelines, critical areas (stream, wetlands, and landslide hazard areas) and public property. All trees in shorelines, critical areas and their buffers, and public property require permits for removal, no matter their size.

  • Vegetation Management Plan: A Vegetation Management Plan is required for properties located in a shoreline management area, critical area, or critical area buffer where vegetation is proposed to be disturbed, including tree removal. Critical areas subject to vegetation management plan review include geologically hazardous areas, frequently flooded areas, wetlands, and streams.
  • Tree Pruning Permit: A Tree Pruning Permit is required for properties located in a shoreline management area, critical area, or critical area buffer. Critical areas subject to tree pruning permit review include geologically hazardous areas, frequently flooded areas, wetlands, and streams.

Tree Removal on Private Property

  • Minor Tree Removal Permit: A Minor Tree Removal Permit is required for removing exceptional trees, removing trees in excess of the annual allowance (Table 19.26.060-1), or when tree removal results in a lot below the required tree credits. Additionally, if pruning more than 25% of the canopy or topping the tree a permit is required.
  • Major Tree Removal Permit: A major tree removal permit is required in conjunction with a land use or construction permit and would remove significant or exceptional trees shall be required to obtain a major tree removal permit. The major tree removal permit application shall be submitted and reviewed in conjunction with the associated land use or construction permit.

Downloadable Forms

Fines and Fees

The revised regulations require fines for illegal tree removal that range from $700 to $15,000. This allows for an education period prior to penalizing people who violate the code.

See current fee tables in the Permit Center.

When Do I Need a Tree Permit?

Learn more about the tree permitting process.

Property Owners:

  • When do I need a tree permit?
  • How to Measure a Tree (Video)
  • Tree Code Residential Fact Sheet
  • Exceptional Trees List
  • Hiring an Arborist and Assessing Trees
  • Tree Retention Handout - Frequently Asked Questions
  • Developers:

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    Updated January 20, 2023