Indigo Pointe clears tree reg hurdle

Despite threats to clear-cut the lot in order to get around Port Orchard’s significant tree ordinance, the developers of Indigo Pointe — a proposed 20-unit housing development off Goldenrod Street — has opted to accommodate the city and find a compromise that would leave healthy trees intact but leave enough space to develop the 3.9-acre parcel as planned.

The city, in response, on Monday unanimously approved the project.

Indigo Pointe, because of its proximity to Blackjack Creek, has been on the drawing board for more than three years. Its developers, when they brought the project before the council late last year, thought they had found a way to build the project they wanted while at the same time adhering to environmental restrictions.

The council, however, told project representative Mark Kuhlman it wouldn’t approve the project unless he found a way to build around seven large trees identified as “historical” under the city’s significant tree ordinance.

Kuhlman at first expressed doubt such a compromise could be struck since two of the trees sat in the middle of the development’s proposed road and others made several lots essentially unbuildable.

In order for large trees to be effectively retained, their roots have to be protected even more carefully than their crowns. Most arborists recommend leaving open an area with a radius equal to one foot for every one inch of tree diameter. A 36-inch historical tree, therefore, would require leaving a 72-foot-diameter circle of land that couldn’t be touched.

The problem, however, worked out better than expected. Kuhlman ended up hiring an arborist to prepare a formal report on the seven trees in question. As it turned out, one of the trees in road wasn’t even a historical tree, which meant it could be cut down without city approval; two others, including the other in the road, had serious defects, including rotting and unstable limbs, and the arborist recommended they be removed.

The four remaining trees, Kuhlman said, look healthy and the site plan was rearranged to make room for three of them. The fourth tree, a large Douglas Fir right on Goldenrod, presented more problems.

To save the other three, Kuhlman rearranged some natural vegetation buffers and re-drew a few property lines. The fir, because it grew so close to the road, sat right in the middle of the sidewalk the city requires new developments to provide.

Kuhlman said he didn’t know what to do about the fir because, technically, Goldenrod already encroaches on the tree’s protective zone and can’t reasonably be moved out of the tree’s way. He proposed forgoing the sidewalk to save the tree or installing a gravel sidewalk instead. Even though the gravel sidewalk would violate the letter of the tree protection ordinance, Kuhlman pointed out the tree doesn’t seem to mind all the pavement already there.

“The tree is there and it’s happy with it,” he said.

Councilman Rick Wyatt, however, said the project’s developers had waited long enough and made a motion to approve cutting the tree down. He pointed out the utility companies will still need their own right-of-way along Goldenrod, which would also conflict with the tree’s continuing health.

“I think (that) tree will have to come down anyway,” Wyatt said.

The council agreed and the motion, along with the rest of the project, passed unanimously.

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