Indigo Pointe OKed — sort of

Indigo Pointe has been approved, but may never be built, thanks to a tree-protection provision the Port Orchard City Council on Monday added to the plan.

Indigo Pointe, a proposed 20-unit, single-family development slated for a heavily treed lot at the end of Goldenrod Street, was a difficult project from the be-ginning.

Although the 3.9-acre property has no unusual topography, part of it does enter a protection zone for a tributary of Blackjack Creek —a major salmon stream.

As a result, project engineer Mark Kuhlman has to reconfigure a large portion of the subdivision to keep the majority of the land inside the protection zone as close to its natural state as possible.

After months of discussions, the City Council agreed the proposal did adequately protect the stream, but said it did not do enough to protect the five largest trees on the site.

The trees — four evergreens and one maple — are more than 36 inches in diameter and therefore qualify as “historical trees” under the city’s significant tree ordinance.

In an unexpected decision Monday night, the council voted 5-2 to allow the subdivision to move forward so long as no historical trees were harmed or removed.

Kuhlman said he would try to accommodate the council but doubted he could balance the needs of the landowner and the city’s mandates while keeping the project profitable.

“One of those trees is impossible to save and go through with the other requirements of the plat,” he said.

With 20 homes, Kuhlman explained, the project was barely profitable anyway. Keeping all five trees would mean the loss of at least another five lots and probably more.

Under city codes, significant trees must have a protection radius that measures one foot for every inch in trunk diameter. There trees would need protection radii of at least 36 feet, inside which nothing could be built.

As Kuhlman pointed out, most of the house lots proposed under the development plan measured only 60 feet by 75 feet — not much larger than the trees’ no-build zones.

Further complicating matters, most of the protected trees are located along the proposed alignment of the development’s only road. That means the road would have to be built elsewhere, in a less central location.

However, Kuhlman said there is nowhere else to put the road and still retain access to the entire parcel.

“There’s really only one way that road can be placed and that’s right up the middle of the project,” he said. “We have about three feet to spare on either side.”

The council seemed to sympathize, but the majority were still unwilling to allow the trees in question to be removed.

“I don’t want to see those trees go away,” said Councilman Todd Cramer, who first proposed the cutting restriction.

Kuhlman said there still remains the possibility one or more of the trees may be ill or dying and therefore will be legal to cut. However, he said the more likely result is the landowner scraps the entire subdivision idea and puts in apartments instead.

Kuhlman also said he is concerned the city’s ruling may result in landowners clear-cutting their properties before offering them up for development. He said the city law that requires developers to retain and protect trees doesn’t apply to landowners, who can log their land with impunity, so long as they follow state regulations.

With no trees left to worry about, Kuhlman explained, landowners may feel they’ll have a quicker path to development.

“I think that will be the logical result of this ruling,” he said.

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